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Moles are small mammals that spend most of their lives in underground burrows.
The most conspicuous features of the mole are its greatly enlarged, paddlelike forefeet and prominent toenails, which enable it to "swim" through the soil. Moles have strong legs, short necks and elongated heads. They lack external ears, and their eyes are so small that at first glance they appear to be missing.
A mole's fur is soft and brownish to grayish with silver highlights. When brushed, the fur offers no resistance in either direction, enabling the mole to travel either backward or forward within burrows.
Moles prefer moist, sandy loam soils in lawns, gardens, pastures and woodlands. They generally avoid heavy, dry clay soils. They construct extensive underground passageways -- shallow surface tunnels for spring, summer and fall; deep, permanent tunnels for winter use. Nest cavities are located underground, connecting with the deep tunnels.
Because moles have high energy requirements, they have large appetites. They can eat 70 to 80 percent of their weight daily. They actively feed day and night at all times of the year. Moles feed on mature insects, snail larvae, spiders, small vertebrates, earthworms, and occasionally small amounts of vegetation. Earthworms and white grubs are preferred foods.
Mole activity in lawns or fields usually shows up as ridges of upheaved soil. The ridges are created where the runways are constructed as the animals move about foraging for food. Burrowing activity occurs year-round, but peaks during warm, wet months. Some of these tunnels are used as travel lanes and may be abandoned immediately after being dug. Mounds of soil called molehills may be brought to the surface of the ground as moles dig deep, permanent tunnels and nest cavities.
Moles breed in late winter or spring and have a gestation period of about four to six weeks. Single annual litters of two to five young are born in March, April or May. Young moles are born hairless and helpless, but growth and development occur rapidly. About four weeks after birth, the moles leave the nest and fend for themselves.
Moles often are more of a nuisance than a financial liability. The ridges of their tunnels make lawn mowing difficult. Since the roots are disturbed, grass may turn brown and unsightly. Moles rarely eat flower bulbs, ornamentals or other vegetative material while tunneling, but plants may be physically disturbed as moles tunnel in search of animal organisms in the soil. Mole activity may indirectly damage vegetation, but their feeding on insects and other soil organisms is beneficial.