Eastern & Star-Nosed Moles
Beagle 1 – Mole 0 (Scalopus aquaticus)
I was putting the battery chargers on my boat and heard our pet beagle yelping with glee. Looking over at him, he was flipping a disheveled, fresh-killed Eastern Mole into the air, grabbing it and flipping again. What a show-off. Three species of mole occur in Maryland, the star-nosed, the hairy tail and the eastern. This mole does not have barbels on its nose or a hairy tail, hence its an eastern.
They are active at dawn and dusk, have a short one-inch long naked tail, have small eyes that are covered in skin and fur and have no external ears and a long naked snout. Growing 4-to 7-inches long they use their strong, large front legs to push soil under its body then use the back legs to push dirt behind the body. Well quaffed, the fur can lay flat whether the mole is moving forward or backward in the tunnel. They use deep primary tunnels and then shallow tunnels for feeding. Favorite foods include worms and grubs, as they are voracious eaters.
The eastern mole is common throughout the eastern United States. They will release a bad-smelling musk odor when attacked, but Mickey, our hard-wired hunting beagle did not care, its the thrill of the kill (biological integrated pest management). Our Pyrenees and Bernese would sniff, curl their nose and move away. Honey beagle don’t care! Now to patch-up the yard where Mickey excavated the tunnels.
On May 13 my son Michael, found a Star-Nose Mole, Condylura cristata, dead, along our creek, while we were mowing our fields.
Star-nose moles are found in wet woods, fields or swamps, and occur from northeast Canada, down through Maryland and portions of Virginia. As you will see in the following photo, the mole has 22 pink, fleshy projections on its nose (hence the name) and digging (padded) forelegs. The mole’s nose ‘tentacles’ are mobile and sensitive, helping it find its way as it burrows just beneath and at the soil surface and to locate food, such as earthworms. When the mole is hunting, its tentacles are constantly in motion, but when it eats, they are clamped together, out of the way.
Star-nose moles are expert swimmers. They reach lengths of less than six inches. They are generally found near streams or lakes, but are seldom seen. The general biology of the star-nose mole is poorly understood, and many biological mysteries surround these creatures. In fact, even their geographic range may be greater than shown in mammal field guides. They can only be caught by using a trapping system known as pitfall traps to capture reptiles and amphibians. Star-nose moles fall into pitfall traps, too. But they do not enter standard mammal traps and so may go undetected by most field scientists.