Living Sanibel: Eastern mole
In Florida the eastern mole rarely builds the characteristic molehill. Instead it prefers to make long continuous tunnels just beneath the surface of the earth. A single tunnel was once measured to be more than 3,300 feet long!
The eastern mole is extremely good at digging in Florida’s dry, sandy soil, which is the habitat it prefers. A healthy mole can dig a hole and bury itself in five seconds. The chances of actually seeing an eastern mole in Florida are extremely slim since it spends its entire life underground.
Its underground life also makes it difficult to study. We do know it is virtually blind, able only to distinguish dark from light with what remains of its eyes. It is a prodigious insectivore and can eat from 25 percent to 100 percent of its own body weight in a day. Its diet consists of earthworms, slugs, snails, centipedes, larvae, scarab beetle grubs, and ants. When an insect accidentally breaks through into an open tunnel, the mole senses the intrusion and scurries over to devour the intruder.
The mole we find in south Florida tends to be smaller and darker than those found in the east and midwest. It ranges all the way into the very southern sections of Ontario. When the mole comes into contact with any of Florida’s many golf courses, it is, for obvious reasons, not very welcome. Most of these nuisance moles are trapped or poisoned.
The mole has a single litter of two to seven pups per year, which suffer from a high mortality rate. As many as two-thirds of its offspring are unable to find suitable habitat in time to avoid predation. The mole pups must leave their mother’s tunnel territory and travel above ground in search of their own two- to five-acre range. The young, defenseless moles are taken by coyotes, foxes, snakes, and shrews. Take a good look at the photo in this article because, in all likelihood, it’s the only mole you will ever actually see.
This is an excerpt from The Living Gulf Coast – A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.