The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Raccoon
Story Of The Cobego
Story Of The Gazelle
Story Of The Chameleon
Story Of The Fossa
Story Of The Walrus
Story Of The Mole
Story Of The Pangolin
Story Of The Opossum
Story Of The Caffre Cat
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Story Of The Mole
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
One morning, after a rain, I traced the fresh passageway of a mole for one hundred yards. The little animal had made this gallery in one night.
I was impressed with the enormous amount of work such a small animal could perform, and I made some figures in comparison with the labor of a man. My figures showed, that in proportion to size, a man would have to dig in a single night a tunnel seven miles long and of sufficient size to easily admit his body in order to perform equivalent work to this mole. I think, therefore, that I am right in the conclusion that the mole is the most indefatigable worker of the burrowing animals to be found in the United States.
AEsop in his fables makes frequent reference to the mole, but he was not a close student of its habits, for he maligned the little creature by saying it had no eyes and that it had been condemned to spend its life under ground. The mole does live underground, but does so from choice, and so far from being a miserable animal, it seems to enjoy its life quite as much as any other creature. It is beautifully fitted for the station which it fills, and would be unhappy if removed from its accustomed damp and darkness into warmth and light.
The eyes of the mole are very small, in order to prevent them from being injured by the earth through which the animal makes its way; indeed larger eyes would be useless underground. When, however, the mole requires to use its eyes, it can bring them forward from the mass of fur which conceals and protects them when not in use. The acute ears and delicate sense of smell in the meantime supply the place of eyes. Its fur is very fine, soft, capable of turning in any direction, and will not retain a particle of mold.
But the most extraordinary part of the mole is the paw or hand with which it digs. The two fore-paws are composed of five fingers, armed with sharp, strong nails, in order to scrape up the earth; and to prevent the accumulated mold from impeding the mole's progress, the hands are turned outwardly, so as to throw the earth out of. its way.
Although each mole has its own hunting ground, yet there are mostly high roads which connect the different hunting grounds with each other, and which are used by many individuals in common, the only precaution taken being, that if two moles should happen to meet, the weaker immediately retreats into one of the numerous side galleries which open from the high road, and permits its aristocratical neighbor to pass.
The common web-footed mole doubtless received its name on account of its webbed hind-feet, which led to the very natural inference that it was a swimming animal. But this is a complete misnomer, for not only is this mole not known voluntarily to swim, but in the selection of its haunts it shows no preference for the vicinity of water, but manifests rather a contrary tendency. Its home is underground, and its entire life is spent beneath the surface. The nest of this mole is commonly half a foot or mere below the surface, and from it several passages lead away in the direction of its favorite foraging-grounds. These primary passages gradually approach the surface, and finally become continuous with, or open into, an ever-increasing multitude of tortuous galleries, which wind about in every direction, and sometimes come so near the surface as barely to escape opening upon it, while at other times they are several inches deep. Along the most superficial of these horizontal burrows the earth is actually thrown up in the form of long ridges, by which the animal's progress can be traced. The distance that they can thus travel in a given time is almost incredible.
The dwelling place is usually placed near a hillock or between trees and consists of a central chamber with passages conducting to two circular galleries placed one above another. The higher of these two galleries has a smaller diameter than the lower one. From the larger lower gallery there are given off several diverging runs, one of which is larger than either of the others, and is known as the main run, being the one which alone leads to the burrows driven in various directions for the purpose of procuring food. These burrows, or runs, except when so close to the surface as to allow of the earth being raised directly upwards in the form of a ridge shoving their course, are marked at intervals by the well-known "mole-which are mounds of loose earth pushed up from below, and not containing any internal chamber or passages.
Since the voracity of the mole is proverbial, and its food consists exclusively of earth-worms, insects, and their larvae, its visits ought to be welcomed alike by the farmer and the gardener. As a matter of fact, however, the mole has an awkward habit of driving its tunnels below the drilled rows of young farm and garden crops, by which not only are the roots of the plants disturbed, but the whole row may be dried up. Moreover, it appears pretty certain that field moles will take advantage of runs driven in such localities as convenient points from which to make inroads on the sprouting seeds or the roots of the young plants. Then, again, in addition to the unsightliness of a host of mole-hills in a garden, such elevations are inconvenient in a field of standing grass, as they impede the process of mowing. From these and other circumstances, farmers and gardeners generally unite in a war of extermination against the mole, although there can be no doubt but that in many respects its visits are a distinct advantage to its destroyers.
The golden or Cape moles are so different from all others of this group that they are referred to a distinct family. They are entirely confined to South Africa, where they are represented by about seven species, and are commonly termed moles by the colonists.
In appearance these animals have some resemblance to the moles, but they have shorter and thicker bodies, with a deeper and blunter snout. The whole form is, however, admirably adapted for tunneling through the ground; since the eyes are totally covered beneath the hairy skin, and the minute ears are deeply buried in the fur. While the hind-feet retain a normal form, the fore-feet have been specially modified for the purpose of digging, having only four toes, of which the two central ones are furnished with enormous triangular claws of great power. The golden moles derive both their popular and scientific names from the brilliant metallic luster of the fur, which shows various tints of green, violet., or golden bronze; the brilliancy of these metallic hues being much intensified when the skin is immersed in spirit.
The runs are made so near the surface of the ground that the earth is raised above the tunnel, which can accordingly be followed with ease in all directions. When one of the moles is seen to be at work, owing to the movements of the soil, it can readily be thrown up on to the surface by the aid of a stick or spade. The food of the golden moles consists mainly of earth-worms.