Coast moles (Scapanus orarius), also known as Pacific mole or red-footed mole, are difficult to distinguish from Townsend’s moles where their ranges overlap in the Pacific Northwest. Both have velvety, dark-gray fur, and tiny eyes and ears that are hidden under their fur. Townsend’s moles have considerably more fur on their tails, and the two species’ teeth differ, but usually, only a mammalogist can distinguish them with certainty.
Coast moles spend most of their lives underground, using their tunnels for foraging, moving to a new location and for finding mates. They are active year-round, but do most of their digging in the fall and winter, when soils are moister. When they are digging deep tunnels, they bring soil to the surface and pile it up in mounds (also known as molehills). A single coast mole may make 200-400 molehills from October to March. When the moles choose the wrong location, such as a lawn, humans destroy them. Dogs and cats frequently catch and kill them, but seldom eat them.
The pest control operator faces a unique problem with moles. Every year the pest control companies receive calls concerning the damage to lawns, playgrounds, cemeteries and gardens caused by these mammals. There are only a few control measures that one can use due to the habits of these lawn pests.
Moles build an extensive complex of tunnels varying in depth. Tunnels close to the surface may be visible while the deep tunnels remain concealed. Shallow tunnels that appear as raised ridges are usually mole feeding tunnels. These tunnels are generally used a few times and then abandoned. Surface activity occurs most consistently in the spring and fall of the year. Deep tunnels are used as living quarters where they retreat from cold, drought, heat and other adverse conditions. They also use the deep tunnels for rearing their young.
A molehill is built of dirt pushed up from these deep tunnels. The number of surface ridges or dirt mounds is not indicative of the number of moles present. Depending on the species of mole, the deep tunnel may be from six to 24 inches (15-61 cm) below the surface. Moles are very active tunnelers and can tunnel at a rate of 12 to 15 feet (3.7-4.6 m) per hour. In favourable areas, shallow tunnels can be generated at a rate of a foot per minute. Moles can be active at any time, day or night, and depending on geographic location, all year long. Most calls Pest Detective receives are due to the tunnelling activity of the mole. The mole very seldom appears above the ground; if it does, it is usually at night during spring dispersal.
Moles usually do not share their tunnels with other moles, although some species, such as the star-nosed mole and hairy-tailed mole, will tolerate moles of the same species. Tunnels may be invaded by other feral animals, most notably shrews, voles, mice, rats or pocket gophers. When this happens, moles sometimes get blamed for injury to plant roots, tubers or seeds. We are familiar with typical rodent damage (teeth marks). Because of the mole’s type of teeth, they do not gnaw and very seldom chew through a root or bulb.
Skunks are mammals with a distinct black and white pattern running down their backside and tail. They generally spray as last resort self-defence. They’re omnivores actively feeding at night. Their lifespan is about three years. Skunks are the major carriers of rabies in many parts of North America. Their general size from head to toe equals about eight to 19 inches. Their tails can be five to 15 inches. Skunks can weigh between 7 oz to 14 lbs.
Squirrels often take up residence in attics or garage ceilings. They choose their homes for nest building based on the availability of the feeding sources. Squirrels can chew through many structural materials and are generally unaffected by repellents. Squirrels will commonly enter the home via broken screens, roof tiles and gaps.