Moles, Squirrels & Bats
Moles (Image © Marcin Pawinski/Dreamstime.com)
The most common mole is the Eastern Mole. Adults measure from five to eight inches and have dark gray or brown fur. Their feet, nose and tail are pink. The nose is fleshy and serves as a touch organ. Their eyes are small sometimes concealed by fur, and are light sensitive. They have a hairless, pointed snout extending nearly 1/2 inch in front of the mouth opening. The front feet are broad and equipped with well-developed claws for digging. It is an insectivore, not a rodent, and is related to shrews and bats.
Moles eat from 70% to 100% of their weight each day. The mole’s diet consists mainly of the insects, grubs, and worms it finds in the soil. Moles are thought to damage roots by feeding on them, but rodents usually are to blame.
Moles produce one litter per year in the spring, averaging three to four pups. The young will stay with the female in her tunnels for about a month and then will begin tunneling on their own. The young develop very quickly and reach adult size in four to eight weeks.
Moles do not hibernate but are more or less active at all seasons of the year. They are busiest finding and storing foods during rainy periods in summer.
The eastern mole is the most common culprit in mole lawn damage. Moles prefer loose, moist soil abounding in grubs and earthworms. They are most commonly found in fields and woods shaded by vegetation, and are not able to maintain existence in hard, compact soil. The number of mole hills is not a measure of the number of moles in a given area. Contrary to popular belief, ridding a lawn of grubs will not get rid of moles. Recent studies have shown that moles are just as happy eating beneficial earthworms as they are grubs. Trapping is the most successful and practical method of getting rid of moles.
Tree Squirrels (Image © Robert Wisdom/Dreamstime.com)
Eastern gray squirrels are variable in color. Some have a reddish cast to their gray coat while others are completely black. Eastern gray squirrels measure 16 to 20 inches and weigh approximately 1 1/2 pounds. Red squirrels are red-brown above with white bellies. They are 10 to 15 inches long and weigh about 1/2 pound, considerably smaller than the eastern gray. Flying squirrels are extremely small in size compared to other squirrels. They may be various shades of velvet gray or brown with a lighter belly. They have a broad flattened tail, enlarged eyes, and extended folds of skin from the wrist to ankle that enables it to “fly”. In truth, the flying squirrel glides, controlling its movement with its rudder-like tail.
Eastern gray squirrels are active from dawn to dusk, with most feeding occurring in the early morning and then again in the mid-afternoon. These tree squirrels usually feed on fruits, nuts, and other vegetation. Red squirrels are also active during the day. They prefer pine cones and buds but will also eat a variety of other foods common to the gray squirrel. Flying squirrels are nocturnal and feed mostly on insects, nuts, fruits, seeds and berries. They also eat bird eggs and nestlings, and other animal matter when available.
Eastern gray and Red squirrels can have two litters per year, one in early spring, and the other in mid-summer. They usually have 2 – 3 young.
Flying squirrels differ from other squirrels in that each litter can have from one to six young. Also, flying squirrels usually live in family groups with anywhere from 5 – 20 members.
These squirrels do not hibernate, but may stay in the nest during bad weather.
Squirrels have been responsible for starting fires by chewing on electrical wires. Other damage includes accumulated droppings, urine stains, chewing and gnawing on wood, and destruction of insulation. Squirrels occasionally damage lawns by burying or searching for and digging up nuts. Eastern gray and Red squirrels are vulnerable to numerous parasites and diseases. Ticks, mange mites, fleas, and internal parasites are common. Flying squirrels are associated with few health concerns; these squirrels pose little, if any, significant threat to humans. Trapping and removal of squirrels is often necessary to stop on-going damage to a structure. This is often tricky and success lies in extensive professional experience in this field
Bats (Image © Dreamstime.com)
Big Brown bats have glossy brown fur on their back with the belly fur being lighter. Their bodies are about 5” long, a wingspan up to 13”and can fly reaching speeds of up to 40 mph. Bats emit high frequency sounds similar to sonar, in order to avoid obstacles, locate and capture insect prey, and to communicate. Big brown bats can live up to 18-20 years in the wild.
Bats are nocturnal (active at night) insectivores (eat insects), and some species eat up to half their body weights each night in flying insects. Big Brown bats prefer eating beetles over other insects, using their powerful jaws to chew through the beetles’ hard exoskeleton. They will also eat other flying insects including moths, flies, wasps, and flying ants all of which they capture while in flight.
Bats generally mate in the fall and winter, but the female retains the sperm in the uterus until spring, when ovulation and fertilization take place. Pregnant females congregate in maternity colonies until birth occurs between April and July. There are usually 1- 2 young that begin flying at 3 – 5 weeks of age. Male bats do not participate with raising young.
Because insects are not available as food during winter, bats survive by either migrating to warmer regions where insects are available, or by hibernating.
Bats become a nuisance when they enter homes through overhangs, soffits, construction gaps on roof lines, or around chimneys. Bats can squeeze through dime sized holes and enter attics leaving stains and odors from urine and feces.
Sharing living quarters with bats can also pose many health concerns. Bats are hosts to ectoparasites such as ticks, mites, fleas and bat bugs (a close relative of the bed bug). Another health concern is Histoplasmosis, a deadly, airborne fungus disease that can grow in bat droppings. Like other mammals, a very small percentage of bats contract rabies. Many rabies exposures could be avoided if people simply refrained from handling bats. Control measures include trapping, removal and structural exclusion to prevent re-infestation. In all cases, this should be left to a professional.