Moles are the creatures of nightmares. For further proof, check out this video. The only thing stranger than their extraterrestrial appearance are their habits and way of life. It is not hyperbole to say that they might be one of the most bizarre creatures on earth, rivaled perhaps only by various creatures of the deep sea and the platypus.
Moles live on every continent of the world except South America and Antarctica, and particularly in the US, their burrowed tunnels that leave our lawns lumpy have become near ubiquitous. But despite the ubiquity of these tunnels, how many times have you actually seen a mole in the wild?
The answer is probably zero, and if you have been lucky (unlucky?) enough to have seen one, it might be worth buying a lottery ticket. While they occasionally pop their heads up from their burrows, it’s usually only for a few brief moments. They are incredibly ill adapted for life outside of the dark, subterranean tunnels in which they dwell.
Much of what we know about moles, however, is slightly misunderstood. Let’s take a look at some of the most bizarre (not so) fun facts about these mysterious little creatures:
- Moles are insectivorous mammals. This means two things: 1) their diet consists almost solely of insects (earthworms, snails, and slugs are their fav). So, no, despite what you may have heard, they don’t actually eat dirt. In fact, before eating an earthworm, moles will use their paws to squeeze dirt out of the worm before consuming—which may actually suggest their disdain for eating dirt. 2) Moles are mammals, which, among other defining characteristics, means they give birth and nurse live young, have hair, and a neocortex (a region in the brain associated with higher order brain function).
- Moles eat nearly 100% of their weight in insects every day. In order to find this many insects, they burrow roughly 70 feet per day.
- Moles’ saliva contains a toxin that stuns and paralyzes earthworms. It’s thought that moles use this toxin to kill earthworms and save them for later. In fact, researchers have found underground caches with over 1,000 worms collected and saved for later.
- Moles are not blind. They have extremely small eyes that are practically useless, but they’re still able to see. To compensate, moles’ have an extraordinary sense of smell and hearing. In fact, moles are one of only a few known animals that can smell in stereo. This means that moles can smell something and immediately detect from which direction the smell is coming. In other words, if you’ve ever stopped in your tracks and wondered where a good or bad smell was coming from…well, moles don’t have that issue. They smell and immediately know, which aids them greatly in their hunting endeavors.
- While moles are often blamed for the destruction of grass and plants, their burrowing efforts often cause more good than harm. They eat many different types of bugs known to nibble on and destroy the roots of various plants, and their burrowing efforts may also help aerate the soil. However, after moles create their various hunting tunnels, they often become occupied by voles, which will happily eat and destroy plants.
- Moles live solitary lives. They only seek out other company during mating season, and if they happen to stumble upon another mole, they will viciously defend themselves and their tunnel.