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Moles and Voles of New York State

Author: Lynn Braband, Extension Educator for Community IPM, HOMES/GROUNDS AND COMMUNITY HORTICULTURE IN-SERVICE, ITHACA, NY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2000

All mole and vole species in NYS are legally classified as "unprotected".

MOLES

Belong to mammalian order Insectivora (which includes shrews and Old World hedgehogs). Fossorial (lives largely underground). Broad front feet adapted for digging. Very small eyes. No external ears. Fur dark and shiny. Signs: low ridges and mounds of dirt with no entry holes. Dens often under something solid such as tree roots, sidewalks, and buildings. Food habits: largely earthworms, insect larvae (including grubs), and other underground invertebrates.

Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus): Up to 6 1/2 inches long. Tail naked. Burt and Grossheider (l976) indicates the NYS range consists of the lower Hudson River Valley, NYC, and Long Island. However, Yates and Pedersen (l982) indicates that the species does not occur in NYS. Prefers moist sandy loam. Active year-round, day and night. Grass-lined nest in burrow 1 1/2 to 2 feet below surface. Largely solitary. Young born in spring. Litter size 4 or 5. One litter per year. Young independent when about one month old.

Hairy-tailed Mole (Parascalops breweri): Up to 5 1/2 inches long. Short, hairy tail. Probably found throughout NYS. Life history and ecology similar to Eastern Mole.

Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata): Up to 5 inches long. Nose surrounded by fingerlike, fleshy projections. Probably found throughout NYS. Tends to occur in low, wet ground especially near water. Often swims. Often gregarious. Reproductive biology similar to above 2 species but litters may be larger.

VOLES

Small rodents in the genus Microtus. Compact stocky bodies with short legs and tails. Eyes small and ears partially hidden. Semifossorial; active day and night year round in areas with thick ground cover. Small animals seen darting through lawns during the day are usually voles. Often have several litters per year. Characterized by large population fluctuations and can reach high densities. Food habits: predominantly herbivorous especially vegetative portions of plants.

Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus): Most abundant species. Found throughout NYS. Dark brown with grayish belly. Up to 5 inches long. Common in grassy areas including lawns. Grass nests can be either above or below ground. Signs: runway through the turf, ground burrow openings, girdled woody plants, and chewed-off herbaceous vegetation. Woody plant damage tends to be above ground especially during winter under snow cover. Often makes trail networks under snow that become visible as snow melts.

Pine Vole (Microtus pinetorum): Forests (and orchards) with thick ground cover. Range maps indicate found throughout NYS except for parts of the far north. Actual distribution uncertain. Common in Hudson River Valley. About an inch shorter than Meadow Vole. Fur auburn colored. Does not use surface runways but has extensive underground tunnel systems. Often damages roots of woody plants.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burt, William H. and Richard P. Grossenheider. 1976. A Field Guide to the Mammals; Field Marks of All North American Species Found North of Mexico. 289 pp. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

Hygnstrom, Scott E., Robert M. Timm, and Gary E. Larson, editors. 1994. Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. 822 pp., 2 volumes. Univ. Nebr. Coop. Extension, USDA-APHIS-Animal Damage Control, and Great Plains Agricultural Council–Wildlife Committee; University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Yates, T. L. and R. J. Pedersen. 1982. Moles. Pages 37-51 in J. A. Chapman and G. A. Feldhamer, eds. Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Economics. The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, Maryland.