There are quite a few pests that make the Pacific Northwest their home. Of these, perhaps the most noticeable (and aggravating) are the pesky critters making those unsightly mounds in your green, well-kept yard. Moles in Oregon are a major problem, we know; we receive calls from customers with mole problems daily, and we’ve caught many, many moles. Let’s take a moment to examine just what a mole is, and why it does what it does to your lawn. Note: For information on gophers, take a look at our detailed article and video.
Contrary to popular belief, moles are not rodents, but insectivores. They’re more closely related to hedgehogs, shrews, and even anteaters than they are gophers or other rodents. Most of the mole’s closest relatives either live underground, or feed there.
from left to right: Mole, shrew, C.H.U.D., anteater
Moles can be active year round and are known to occasionally push up a new mound even in snow! They do try to store food for the colder months, when their activity will often be subdued, but moles are not above tunneling even in freezing temperatures.
While gophers prefer vegetation, moles prefer worms and grubs, and occasionally small insects. There are three types of mole in our region, but by far the most prevalent is the Townsend Mole. The range about 5-8 inches, depending somewhat on age, and they are the largest moles in North America. They can dig approximately 18 feet per hour, if needed, and if they are already inside a previously excavated tunnel, they can run up to 80 feet per minute forwards or backwards underground. Moles in Oregon seldom leave the protection of their tunnels and do not venture above ground unless they have to (fear of a predator, such as a snake, or flooding of tunnels).
When it comes to food, Moles are eating champions. A mole’s diet is mostly made up of earthworms and a few other smaller insects, but they will also dine on small amounts of vegetation or nuts if their regular food sources run scarce. A mole can eat up to a third of its body weight per day. In fact, one mole can eat 50 lbs of worms in a year. That would be like a human being somehow being able to eat nearly 60 lbs of food a day!
Townsend Moles in Oregon do have a fairly specific mating season. They mate in the late Winter, and females will generally have a litter of 2 young. While the male (called a “boar”) and female (“sow”) are able to tolerate one another long enough to reproduce, moles are intensely solitary and their habitats rarely overlap. The male vacates the area after starting up the next generation. The way the male and female moles meet is through the searching of the male. He’ll let out a series of high-pitched sounds as he tunnels into foreign territory. When a female responds to his subterranean pick-up line, he digs his way there and they build a bed together and then… well, you know.
The tunnels they dig can span broad ranges and have a very specific purpose. These lines, or runs, of tunnels are actually a cleverly designed worm trap. The worms fall into the tunnels as they forage and the mole, being very tuned to shifts in sound, pressure, and scent in his abode, quickly runs to the location and kills the worm. These worms can be stored in a chamber, or larder, for later consumption after the mole bites them, as its saliva contains a chemical that utterly paralyzes earthworms. Specialists, indeed.
The range of adult moles varies widely. An average acre will accommodate a single male mole, sometimes including a female, as well. Males do not like their range to overlap with the range of other male moles. Females do not seem so particular about this. When their young are weaned, they’ll leave the nest (in a rare instance of above-ground travel), and generally begin their own runs within about 30-40 yards. A single, mature mole can make over 200 mounds in a single winter.
If you have any questions or concerns about moles in Oregon, or would like to setup a FREE inspection, there are numerous ways to contact us.
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