October 06, 2022

When Zena and I went out for our walk this morning we encountered a mole shuffling along the road gutter near our house.  While I my yards always seem to provide evidence of mole presence, this is the first mole I have ever seen above ground.  Zena is always curious about new encounters and immediately wanted to find out what this tiny intruder was in our walk environment.  Since my yard has been plagued by a mole (s?) my first thought was to get rid of it.  Then I remembered how the benefits of a mole (removing insects, grubs, and worms) are said to outweigh the runs and exit holes they leave in your yard.  I have an aversion to killing anything for no reason other than it is there, and rather than kill them I use sonic stakes to repel moles from my yard.  I diverted Zena’s attention with a treat, and we went on down the street.  My thought was it is too far to make it to my yard anyway.

When I looked online, I found the eastern mole ((Scalopus aquaticus), or the common mole, is a small mammal adapted to a subterranean lifestyle.  The word “mole” refers to any species in the family Talpidae, which means “mole” in Latin.  Moles are found in most parts of North America, Europe, and Asia, and the eastern mole is native to southeastern US.  The mole is about 6.3 inches (16 cm) in length including a 1¼ inch (3 cm) long tail and weighs about 2.6 ounces (75 g).  They have cylindrical bodies, reduced hindlimbs, and short, powerful forelimbs with large paws adapted for digging.  A fleshy, moveable snout projecting over the mouth with nostrils on the upper part is used as a touch organ.  The short, thick tail is is also used for touch when the mole moves backward in the tunnel.  The minute, degenerative eyes are hidden in the fur and the eyelids are fused, limiting sight to distinguishing between light and dark.  The small ear openings are concealed by fur, but hearing is acute.  A mole will stop digging when it hears humans or pets walking in the yard.

While gardeners see a mole as a pest, they have positive contributions including soil aeration, feeding on slugs and small creatures that eat plant roots, and providing prey for other wildlife.  The pelt of the eastern mole is small and does not dye well making it of no commercial value to the fur industry (lucky for the mole).  When a mole disfigures lawns, damages the roots of garden plants searching for food, or take sprouting corn, they are considered undesirable.  However, some homeowners report a mole eradicated other undesirable insect pests.  The species is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List because of its wide distribution, large (assumed) population, occurrence in several protected areas, tolerance to habitat modification, and because it is unlikely to decline at a rate to qualify for listing in a threatened category.

THOUGHTS:  Today’s San Jose Mercury News reported a reporter finding a dead mole above ground on a hike in the nearby hills.  When the queried on Facebook, other hikers were finding the same thing.  The responses offered several solutions to the problem, but nothing definitive.  While it may be an interesting phenomenon with a solvable solution, the author likened it to finding missing socks (his dog takes them when he leaves the house).  I have found my socks missing while I am getting dressed, only to later find them out on the patio (Zena).  My traveling mole may be a mystery, but likely it was just moving to a new location.  Conspiracy theories often provide improbable explanations for easily understood events.  It seems the wilder the explanation, the more it spreads across the internet (and is believed?).  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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