Hairy-tailed moles (Parascalops breweri) are native to the Nearctic region. They are found in the northeastern United States (New England) and southern Canada (Ontario, Quebec, and regions near the Great Lakes). Their range extends southward from Canada to northern Georgia, northern South Carolina, western North Carolina, central Virginia, eastern Kentucky, central West Virginia, and eastern Tennessee to the Appalachian Mountains. They inhabit central New Hampshire, central Massachusetts, northern New Jersey, central Vermont, and western Connecticut. They can also be found in eastern Ohio, central New York, central Pennsylvania, and eastern Rhode Island. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Cassola, 2017; Linzey, 2021; Whitaker Jr. and Hamilton Jr, 1998)
Hairy-tailed moles are found in temperate and terrestrial habitats. They reside in mixed forests, deciduous forests, evergreen forests, agricultural fields, mountainous habitats, suburban areas, and along roadsides. They often inhabit sandy loam soil and are less common in both clay soils and those with high moisture levels. Hairy-tailed moles create tunnels 10 to 20 cm below the surface; these tunnels can span 15 to 24 m in length. Tunnel passages are approximately 5 cm wide and 3 cm high. In response to cold temperatures, hairy-tailed moles dig deeper tunnels, as far as 45 cm below the surface. These deep tunnels are also more open, with reports of tunnels 15 cm wide and 8 cm high. To rear young, hairy-tailed moles make nests in chambers that branch off of their main tunnel systems. Hallet (1978) describes a single winter nest that measured as large as 200 mm by 150 mm, was oval-shaped, and consisted of ripped up leaves and grass. In the Great Smokey Mountains, hairy-tailed moles have been documented at elevations as high as 1,950 m. Range-wide, this species is found at an average elevation of 450 m, with a minimum of 182 m.
Other species also use the tunnel systems created by hairy-tailed moles, including white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), northern short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda), pine voles (Microtus pinetorum) and star-nosed moles (Condylura cristata). (Best and Hunt, 2020; Hallet, 1978; Trani, et al., 2007)
Hairy-tailed moles have short tails with shaggy black fur. The pelage covering their bodies is dark gray and black. The base of the feet, tail, and rostrum are dark brown in juveniles and turn white as they age. Their eyes are reduced and concealed in the fur. Hairy-tailed moles lack visible ears, though they do receive auditory cues through earholes. Their nasal openings are lateral and crescent-shaped. Their forelimbs are hypertrophied and they have a bone alongside their thumb which facilitates digging. The force these moles can create with their forelimbs is equal to more than 30 times their body mass.
Hairy-tailed moles exhibit sexual dimorphism, with males being larger than females. On average, males are 155 mm in total length, with tails and hind feet measuring 29 mm and 20 mm, respectively. Females are 147 mm in total length on average, with tails measuring 28 mm and hind feet measuring 19 mm. Average body mass is 54.5 g for males and 47.5 g for females. Measurements for hairy-tailed moles of both sexes range from 139-174 mm for body length, 23-36 mm for tails, 17-21 mm for hind feet, and 40.0-62.8 g body mass. Their dental formula is 3143/3143.
At birth, hairy tailed-moles have whitish and wrinkled skin and lack hair except for short vibrissae on their snouts and bristles near their eyes and lips. The eyes of newborn hairy-tailed moles are not well developed, and appear as black spots under the skin, about 0.5 mm in diameter. Their ears are visible as slit-openings about 1 mm wide. Juveniles hairy-tailed moles have forelimbs similar to adults, but their claws are softer and smaller. Juveniles also have milk teeth for 8-10 weeks, until they are replaced by adult teeth.
Hairy tailed moles differ visibly from eastern moles (Scalopus aquaticus) because of their hairy tail. Furthermore, their snouts are 9 mm shorter than eastern moles, on average. Their noses lack the fleshy tubercles that distinguish star-nosed moles (Condylura cristata). (Best and Hunt, 2020; Chappuis, et al., 2017; Hallet, 1978; Linzey, 2021; Trani, et al., 2007; Whitaker Jr. and Hamilton Jr, 1998)
Hairy-tailed moles are polyandrous, meaning one female mates with multiple males. Mating happens in late March and early April. The vaginal orifices of females open before mating. During the breeding season, the testes of males increase in size. A study in New Hampshire reported males with enlarged testes from March until the middle of May, with measures estimated at 12 mm x 7 mm. After May, testes became inert and shrank, reaching 2 mm x 3 mm by October. During the breeding season, males find females and release odors from scent glands to attract them. After breeding with a female, males insert a copulatory plug, which prevents other males from successfully inseminating the same female.
Females construct nests for their young in burrow chambers. Males are not present when the nesting area is occupied by females. Nests are round and typically made of dead leaves and humus. One nest was measured at approximately 160 mm in diameter. Nest chambers are dug about 25 cm below the surface of the ground, on average. Mothers stay in nests with their young to provide food. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Eadie, 1939; Hallet, 1978)
Hairy-tailed reproduce sexually, employ internal fertilization, and are gonochoric. Their breeding season spans from late March to early April. Females breed once yearly, producing litters of 1 to 8 young, although the more typical range for a litter is 4 to 5 young. The gestation period lasts 4 to 6 weeks, and the mass of hairy-tailed moles at birth averages 10.1 g. Juveniles are born without hair, and are entirely dependent on their mother for food and protection. Weaning starts after approximately one month, at which point juveniles weigh an average of 34.8 g. Both sexes reach sexual maturity at about 10 months old. Hairy-tailed moles are independent at one month old. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Eadie, 1939; Linzey, 2021)
Females construct underground nests in the burrow chambers for their young. They also provide care for their young for approximately 30 days after birth, at which point they are fully weaned and independent. Males provide no parental investment beyond the act of mating. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Choate, et al., 1994; Eadie, 1939; Hallet, 1978)
The expected lifespan for hairy-tailed moles is five years but it is not yet proven. They are more likely to die as juveniles, as they are more susceptible to predators.
Hairy-tailed moles can be kept in captivity and fed earthworms (suborder Lumbricina), beetles (order Coleoptera), and snails (class Gastropoda). However, maximum lifespan in captivity has not been tested. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Eadie, 1939; Grzimek, 1990; Hallet, 1978; Henning, 1952; Linzey, 2021)
Hairy-tailed moles are active during the day and at night. They are motile and most active through the day, although they typically forage at night. Hairy-tailed moles are solitary during the winter. They are known for being fossorial, making use of tunnel systems that they dig. They have difficulty walking aboveground due to their enlarged forelimbs.
Hairy-tailed moles live in tunnel system with other males, females, and young moles which makes them seasonally social. They communicate with other species and conspecifics by making quick, harsh squeaks. Hairy-tailed moles only use alarm calls only when threatened by predators. Mating rituals have not been described for hairy-tailed moles. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Eadie, 1939; Hallet, 1978; Linzey, 2021)
Hairy-tailed mole population density can reach up to 30 per hectare in suitable habitats. There are usually 25 to 30 animals within a single tunnel system. Home range for a single individual has only been reported once, at 0.081 ha. They are not known to defend specific territories. (Eadie, 1939; Engebresten, 2019; Hallet, 1978)
Hairy-tailed moles communicate with northern short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda), masked shrews (Sorex cinereus), meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus), eastern moles (Scalopus aquaticus), and meadow jumping mice (Zapus hudsonius) through quick, harsh, squeaky sounds. They whistle with their teeth as an alarm call toward predators such as northern copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes).
Hairy-tailed moles have scent glands on their chins, throats, wrists, and abdomens. These glands exude a yellowish substance with a strong odor, which they use to communicate with potential mates during the breeding period. Males produce a stronger odor than females.
Hairy-tailed moles use tactile efforts to engage with aspects of their environment. They use their enlarged front paws for digging tunnels. Females also use their forelimbs to construct nest chambers for their offspring. Males and females likely interact via tactile senses to mate. Females will interact with young in the nest with tactile measures as well. Hairy-tailed moles have vibrissae on their snouts, forefeet, and behind their eyes to assist them in detecting earthworms and other invertebrates.
Hairy-tailed moles have reduced eyes and do not depend heavily on eyesight. They have very small optic nerves, so they cannot see well. Hairy-tailed moles depend instead on their sense of smell to forage. The presence of Eimer's organs - papilla of skin on their snouts with cells linked to sensory receptors - also helps them forage for food underground. (Eadie, 1939; Hallet, 1978; Leitch, et al., 2014; Linzey, 2021)
Hairy-tailed moles are considered insectivores, since their diet consists of beetles (order Coleoptera), ants (family Formicidae) and flies (order Diptera). They are also known to eat the pupae and larvae of ground wasps (family Hymenoptera) as well as other non-insect arthropods, such as sow bugs (order Oniscidea). Hairy-tailed moles are also considered molluscivores and vermivores, since they consume snails and slugs (class Gastropoda), as well as earthworms (suborder Lumbricina). Hairy-tailed moles have vibrissae on their snouts, forefeet, and behind their eyes that assist them in detecting invertebrate prey. They forage opportunistically for invertebrates in their tunnel systems.
To meet their metabolic needs, hairy-tailed moles can eat as much as three times their body weight in food each day. One study examined stomach contents of hairy-tailed moles and found that 84% of individuals had earthworms in their stomach. Insects were in 86% of stomachs and, of those insects, 96% were beetle adults and larvae. Ants, which were found in 57% of stomachs, are eaten seasonally, when other insects are less available. Snails and slugs consisted of 3% of their diets on average. Hairy-tailed moles may store their food in forest litter for a couple of hours at night. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Choate, et al., 1994; Eadie, 1939; Hallet, 1978; Linzey, 2021; Whitaker Jr. and Hamilton Jr, 1998)
Predators of hairy-tailed moles include Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana), northern short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda), domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), and American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus). Other predators include great gray owls (Strix nebulosa), bobcats (Lynx rufus), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), and northern copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix). Humans (Homo sapiens) purposely kill moles to prevent them burrowing in flower beds, gardens, and lawns. Moles whistle with their teeth as an alarm call to warn of predators. (Best and Hunt, 2020; Eadie, 1939; Best and Hunt, 2020; Eadie, 1939; Henderson, 1994; Linzey, 2021)
Hairy-tailed moles are fossorial and help with aeration in the soil. Their diet consist of earthworms, beetles, and snails. Predators of hairy-tailed moles include, but are not limited to, red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), great gray owls (Strix nebulosa), and northern copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix). Recorded ectoparasites of hairy-tailed moles include mites (Labidophorus nearcticus, Haemogamasus liponyssoides, Labidophorus talpae), mouse-nest beetles (Leptinus americanus), fleas (Ctenophthalmus pseudagyrtes, Nearctopsylla hygini, Doratopsylla blarinae, Hisrichopsylla tahavuana, Megabothris acerbus, Peromyscopsylla hesperomys, Nearctopsylla hygini), and louse (Haematopinus abnormis). Internal parasites include coccidians (Isospora parascalopi, Cyclospora parascalopi, Eimeria aethiospora, Eimeria titthus, Isospora ashtabulensis, Cyclospora ashtabulensis), acanthocephalans (Moniliformis clarki), and nematodes (Physaloptera limbata). (Eadie, 1939; Ford and Duszynski, 1989; Hallet, 1978; Morgan, 1946; Whitaker Jr. and Hamilton Jr, 1998)
Hairy-tailed moles may control pest populations in the soil. They are known to eat June beetle grubs (genus Phyllophaga), cutworms (family Noctuidae), and Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) that can damage lawns. (Henderson, 1994; White and Hurley, 2020)
The burrow systems of hairy-tailed moles can damage lawns, roots of grass, flower beds, and parks. Humans pay animal control companies to remove the moles. However, mole removal is a lengthy process, with initial visits by pest management companies costing landowners several hundred dollars. Pest control services identify hairy-tailed moles from their volcano-like mounds. Monthly or bi-monthly follow-up trapping and treatments end up making removal costly, but effective. There are lethal methods of remove hairy-tailed moles, which are not recommended. (Hallet, 1978; Henderson, 1994; Moorman, 2022; White and Hurley, 2020)
Hairy-tailed moles are listed as a species of "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List. They have no special status on the US Federal List, State of Michigan List, and CITES. Hairy-tailed moles are secure in Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina. They have a vulnerable status in Tennessee and require management there. Hairy-tailed moles are critically imperiled in Georgia, and imperiled in South Carolina.
A threat toward hairy-tailed moles is anthropogenic development. Parking lots, roads, and buildings replace their native habitats. Soil near construction sites becomes soggy, which can be harmful to moles. Humans use traps to lethally remove moles when they destroy lawns.
Conservation measures for hairy-tailed moles are minimal because they appear to be stable throughout most of their range. In states where they are rare, such as Georgia, the beneficial efforts to preserve soil quality will benefit these moles. On lawns, fewer mulch applications generally lead to fewer problems with moles. There are methods of reducing conflict between humans and moles. For example, an underground barrier or mole hedge can reduce the harm that moles do to human property. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources suggests conservation measures for hairy-tailed moles that include the education of landowners, surveys on population distribution, and studies on the effects of timber harvest. (Cassola, 2017; Engebresten, 2019; Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, 2022; Trani, et al., 2007)
ashanti akers (author), Radford University, Sierra Felty (editor), Radford University, Bianca Plowman (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Victoria Raulerson (editor), Radford University, Christopher Wozniak (editor), Radford University, Galen Burrell (editor), Special Projects.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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