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Moles are small burrowing animals, approximately 6 to 8 inches long and typically weigh 3 to 5 ounces. They have short, velvety fur that is usually gray to silvery-gray. They have greatly enlarged, webbed front feet with short claws, the eastern mole (the most common) has a pointed snout. Moles do not have eyes and their ears are very small, concealed in fur. An adult mole may live for about 2 to 3.
Regionally, moles are found primarily east of the Rocky Mountains. Moles are not rodents; they belong to the group of mammals know as insectivores. They are destructive lawn and garden pests creating mounds and runways which disfiguring and sometimes uprooting plant life. Feeding mostly on earthworms, grubs and other small soil insects; moles live their entire lives beneath the surface of the ground. Moles prefer cool, moist, loose soil populated by worms, grubs and other small insects. A tremendous amount of energy is expanded in plowing through soil, requiring a correspondingly large amount of energy. Moles obtain this energy by eating 70% to 100% of their body weight each day. Because of this required food intake, moles can cover a very large amount of ground area.
Moles are active day and night year round; however they are most active in the spring and fall on damp days following rain showers. Generally, moles will create surface tunnels or ridges in the top 6 to 12 inches of the ground; this contains the largest food supply. In colder temperatures, during the winter or dry periods in the summer months, moles burrow deeper into the soil in search of food. Daily peak activity may range all through the morning hours, although moles can be seen burrowing off and on throughout the day and night.
The mounds of a mole are characterized as volcano-shaped hills of dirt or soil. These hills may average between 2 and 24 inches tall. Runways or surface ridges are created by moles as they are actively searching for food. Often times these active runways will become abandoned after digging in search of food. Prior to treatment, it is important to determine which runways are active. This may be accomplished by either pressing down on a small section of the tunnel or poking small holes into the runways. Mark these sections and recheck in 24 hours. The runway is considered active if the flattened area has been repaired or if the small poked holes have been closed.
Pocket gophers are burrowing rodents named after the fur –lined external cheek pouches, or pockets which they use for carrying food and nesting material. They are about 5-14 inches long and typically weigh 1 to 2 pounds. Built with flattened heads make them well suited for a life of digging and burrowing. Pocket gophers have large clawed front paws, fine short fur ranging from light brown to black and very small eyes and external ears. The average life span of a pocket gopher ranges 2-3 years.
Pocket gophers are found in the Western two thirds of the United States. They are solitary rodents and extremely well adapted for a reclusive underground existence. In most instances, one pocket gopher occupies the average household yard; a single gopher may create several mounds in one day. Much of their burrowing is done in search for food. As herbivores, the pocket gophers diet consists of a wide variety of vegetation. Most commonly they feed on roots, grasses, shrubs and fleshy portions of plants they encounter while digging through the soil.
Gophers do not hibernate and may be active at any hour of the day, any season of the year. They are most visible in the spring and fall when the soil is of ideal moisture for digging. The number of mounds created in one year may be as great as 300 per gopher. Estimates conclude an average of 1 to 3 per day, up to 70 mounds per month. Gopher mounds are often mistaken with mole mounds. The difference is that gopher mounds are crescent or horseshoe shaped with a plugged hole off to one side. Burrow systems consist of a main burrow 6 to 12 inches below and parallel to the surface of the ground. The diameter of a burrow is about 3 inches but may also vary with the size of the gopher.