Mole, a small insect-eating mammal related to the shrew. It lives in underground burrows and is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

The star-nosed moleThe star-nosed mole has fleshy tentacles on the end of its nose.

The mole is covered by soft, velvety fur that ranges in color from gold to dark brown or black. It has tiny eyes and is almost completely blind. Its ears are small and are hidden beneath the fur. Moles are sensitive to underground vibrations but do not hear well above ground.

How Do Moles Get Around in the Dark?

Unlike hedgehogs and shrews, moles spend almost their entire lives underground. They dig tunnels under the earth and live in them.

Their well-developed sense of touch makes up for their poor eyesight. Their sensitive whiskers and body hair help guide moles through the darkness. The tip of a mole’s snout has tiny bumps that feel every object it comes in contact with. Moles also have excellent senses of smell and hearing.

An adult mole is 5 1/2 to 9 inches (14 to 23 cm) long and weighs from 1.2 to 6 ounces (34 to 170 g), depending on the species. It has a cylindrical body and a short tail that is either bare or hairy. The tubular, bare nose is used in digging tunnels and extends beyond the mouth. The legs are short and stout. The spadelike forefeet have sharp claws and the palms are turned outward, which aids in digging.

Moles are solitary creatures. They spend most of their time in a network of tunnels. The tunnels, usually less than six inches (15 cm) below the surface, leave ridges of earth, called molehills, above ground. Some species dig a second set of tunnels, up to 18 inches (45 cm) below ground, for nesting. In digging, the mole first loosens the earth with its snout and then thrusts its forefeet forward, pushing the earth out to the sides.

The mole feeds primarily on insects, worms, and vegetation; some species also eat crustaceans, fish, and mice. The mole has such a high metabolic rate that it must eat two or three times its own weight in food each day; it cannot go without food for more than 10 or 12 hours.

What Is a Mole’s Favorite Meal?

Although they eat insects, moles prefer big, juicy earthworms. Moles like them so much that some moles store extra worms away for future meals in special storage chambers. A scientist uncovered one storage chamber containing 1,280 earthworms and some grubs. The total weight of the stored food was about 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms).

Moles also like to feed on larger animals, such as lizards and mice. Like shrews, moles must eat an enormous amount of food every day to stay alive.

Moles mate in late winter or early spring. The female usually builds a grassy nest in a deep tunnel; however, the females of some species build a grassy nest above ground. Three to seven young are born in early spring. They are independent at three weeks and mature at 10 months. Moles live four to five years.

The mole is considered a nuisance because the ridges and mounds made by its tunneling can ruin the appearance of a lawn or golf course. On the other hand, moles help control harmful insects. Mole skins, which are warm and waterproof, are used to make fur wraps. Hundreds of skins are needed for a single garment. Moleskin is a fabric that resembles the mole's coat.

Why Do Homeowners Dislike Moles?

Moles are expert diggers. And moles love to tunnel through lawns and gardens. They create molehills on the surface as they go. Moles dig some of their tunnels close to the surface where insects and worms can be found. Their digging cuts off root systems of grass and plants. One mole can ruin a lawn, a garden, or a flower bed.

The bodies of moles are built for digging. The large forelegs have flat, shovellike feet that turn outward. At the end of each foot are large, broad claws or nails, perfect for scooping out dirt. The heads and backsides are tapered, starting wide and getting narrow. This allows moles to move easily through the earth.

What Is a Mole’s Underground Home Like?

It’s very dark as you might imagine. But if you could see, here is what you would find. At the center of a mole’s network of tunnels is a nest. This is where it lives and sleeps. Some distance away from the main tunnels may be a room where a female mole cares for her young.

The tunnels branch out from the nest. About every four hours, a mole can complete a tour through the tunnels—looking for worms, spiders, and insect larvae (Lahr vee) to eat.