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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 3, 2004 - Issue 110


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Why the Mole Lives Underground


Cherokee Legend


A man was in love with a woman who disliked him and wanted nothing to do with him. He tried in every way to win her favor, but with no success. At last he grew discouraged and made himself sick thinking about it.

Mole came along, and finding the man so low in his mind, asked what the trouble was. The man told him the whole story, and when he had finished, Mole said: "I can help you. Not only will she like you, but she'll come to you of her own free will."

That night, burrowing underground to the place where the girl was in bed asleep, Mole took out her heart. He came back by the same way and gave the heart to the discouraged man, who couldn't see it even when it was in his hand.

"There," said Mole. "Swallow it, and she will be so drawn to you that she has to come."

The man swallowed the heart, and when the girl woke up she somehow thought of him at once. She felt a strange urge to be with him, to go to him that minute. She couldn't understand it, because she had always disliked him, but the feeling grew so strong that she was compelled to find the man and tell him that she loved him and wanted to be his wife. And so they were married.

All the others who knew them both were surprised and wondered how it had come about. When they found that it was the work of Mole, whom they had always thought too insignificant to notice, they were jealous and threatened to kill him. That's why Mole hid under the ground and still doesn't dare to come up.

Print and Color Your Own Mole


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Mole (Talpidae insectivora)

The mole is part of the Talpidae family, order insectivora, and has a pointed snout, rudimentary eyes, soft thick velvety fur, broad feet and long powerful claws on the front pair of legs.

The mole, or "little gentleman in velvet" is a worm catcher of astonishing rapidity and devours his own bodyweight in worms in a short time. He needs 50% of his bodyweight in food per day and can quickly die of starvation. He eats mainly worms, which he holds in his front paws like a squirrel and wipes it clean with his claws, but he also eats slugs and snails or whatever appropriate meal he comes across! In deciduous woods on clay soil there will be enough worms to feed two moles per acre and he will not often have to venture above ground from his underground tunnels. Earthworms fall into their tunnels and he will sense them, catch them and often store them injured but alive in his larder at the side of an underground run.

The female mole builds her nest in a football sized chamber lined with dead leaves and grass. A larger molehill may cover the breeding nest in spring. The young are born without hair in June, generally about four or five of them. The curious mounds of earth thrown up by moles (molehills) are excellent drainage and soil aeration made by mole tunnels but most gardeners are not so keen! Moles seldom nest in water-logged soil. The tunnels are not just homes but carefully constructed traps to catch their prey, as well as kitchen and dining room! Moles often return to the same sites annually. Enlarged nest chambers are built at the centre of tunnel networks, in which they weave a ball of dried grass. Elaborate "fortresses" are built above the surface if the soil is not deep enough for a conventional nest.

Mole Myths

"Moles are rodents"
Moles are actually insectivores, not rodents. They are from the same family as the anteater.

"Moles are blind"
Moles have extremely tiny eyes that are basically a thin membrane behind their snout. These "eyes" allow them only to sense light and little else.

"Moles are territorial and live alone"
This one is partially true. Moles generally do not get along with one another. In fact, they will often fight to the death if another mole infringes upon their territory (obviously this is not true during mating season).

Donald and Lillian Stokes in their book, Animal Tracking and Behaviour 1986, say:

"Moles are believed to remain solitary as adults and avoid contact with other moles. However, there are at least two exceptions. One occurs in the spring, when the males start to move around and leave their range in search of females. They may move about for several weeks, even after all the females in an area have mated. The other exception is that occasionally some tunnels are used by several moles; these tunnels are, in a sense, like highways. This communal use suggests that the social system of moles is more complex than we think."

"Moles eat 2 – 3 times their body weight per day"
This claim is greatly exaggerated. Most lab and field tests will show that while moles do have a voracious appetite, they only eat up to 70 – 100% of their body weight each day.

"Moles are eating my plant bulbs and roots"
Moles are almost entirely carnivorous; however, it is true that moles can indirectly kill plants. They do this in two ways:

  • The tunnels created by moles will often be used by other small animals. Voles, in particular, will travel in these tunnels and eat away at roots and tubers.
  • A good location for grubs and worms is among the roots of a hedge, flower, or other type of plant. The mole will scrape the dirt away from the roots in search of food, thereby removing the plants’ source of nourishment.

"Moles are nocturnal (active only during the night)"
This misconception is usually the result of people looking out their window in the morning and seeing fresh mole hills. In fact, moles are not necessarily more or less active at any time during the day or night. Current research suggests that moles sleep and work in 4-hour shifts. They are more active during quiet periods, such as early morning or late in the evening. When they feel vibrations in the ground, as created from people or pets walking, they will be more likely
to cease their digging.

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