Moles, being burrowing mammals, spend most of their time underground, going about their daily lives out of our naked eye. These tiny tunnellers are important for our ecosystem because they serve as a crucial link in the food chain, even though they have an elusive lifestyle. Although their use in aerating and improving soil is well-known, the amazing variety of mole predators that rely on them for food has received less attention.
This article focuses on how predators hunt moles and provides an overview of some of the animals that eat them.
14 Mole predators
A surprisingly diverse range of predators targets moles, despite their underground lifestyle. These include animals such as foxes, cats, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, badgers, stoats, pine martens, American mink, ferrets, and weasels, as well as birds such as the barn owl and great blue heron. Even certain reptiles, such as the rat snake, are known to consume moles.
Scientific Name: Felis catus
Cats are among the most common predators of moles and other small prey, such as birds and rodents. Their hunting methods include actively pursuing their victim or waiting in ambush for the prey to approach a distance where they may successfully capture it.
Because of an innate need to ensure the prey is weak enough to be killed without harming the cat, you may observe these animals frequently “play” with their prey by releasing and recapturing it.
Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Moles are part of the wide-ranging diet of the red fox. For foxes, particularly in locations where they’re common, moles, which are little mammals that burrow in soil, are a wonderful source of protein. The keen hearing and scent of red foxes also enable them to detect the presence of underground moles.
Red foxes also use unusual hunting techniques. They often stand still and concentrate, with their ears pricked up, listening for the sound of moles tunneling underneath the soil. As soon as the fox locates the mole, it springs into the air and dives nose-first into the ground, a behavior known as “mousing.”
Scientific Name: Taxidea taxus
Besides foxes, badgers are another common predator of moles in the wild. Their diets are diverse and change based on the species and the environment in which they live. Badgers, particularly the American badger, which specializes in digging up ground-dwelling species, make moles a large part of their diet.
They have powerful forelimbs and long, strong claws that are ideal for digging and breaking into mole tunnels, and they use these traits to their advantage.
Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Coyotes eat various foods, including moles, in areas where they’re abundant. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders who use whatever food source that’s accessible to them at the time. Their ability to adapt contributes to their success as a species, allowing them to live in various habitats throughout North America.
Although coyotes are expert diggers as a species, they tend to favor hunting methods that involve as little energy as possible. If other food sources are scarce, they’ll probably dig for a mole. When a coyote finds a mole, it quickly digs into the ground to get to the mole’s tunnels and catch it.
Scientific Name: Mustela erminea
Stoats, which are also called ermines or short-tailed weasels, prey on moles and other small mammals. They mostly eat meat and prefer mammals like rabbits, hares, rodents, and moles. These creatures are slim and nimble, and they can hunt in various habitats, including above ground and in tunnels where moles live.
The stoat hunts with impressive speed and agility to catch its prey quickly. A stoat detects the presence of a mole in its tunnels using its keen senses while hunting. Its slim body is well suited for chasing moles into their burrows, and its powerful jaws and sharp teeth are ideal for delivering a quick, deadly bite to the mole’s back or neck.
Scientific Name: Mustela nivalis
Another predator of moles and other tiny mammals is the least weasel, the smallest species in the Mustelidae family. Because of their specialized anatomy, you’ll see these animals hunt successfully in the narrow spaces of mole tunnels. They can enter and chase down moles in their own burrows because of their small size and agile bodies, which larger predators can’t do.
Small rodents are the major food source for least weasels, however, they’re opportunistic and will change their diet based on what is readily available in their area.
Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Raccoons are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters renowned for their variable diets, which can vary greatly depending on their location and the availability of food sources. They usually eat fruits, nuts, insects, rodents, frogs, fish, and bird eggs. They’ve also adapted well to human habitats, and it’s common to see them scavenging in the trash and other places where people dispose of their leftover food.
Raccoons may also consume moles, particularly in areas with high mole populations. Although raccoons aren’t as skilled diggers as other animals like badgers and foxes, they have found a way to benefit from mole activity. When a raccoon encounters molehills or surface tunnels made by moles, it might dig into these relatively shallow structures to capture the mole.
8. Barn owls
Scientific Name: Tyto alba
One of the animals you might see hunting moles is the barn owl. They’re highly effective predators in mole-rich environments due to their hunting skills and ability to adapt to nocturnal life.
In terms of their diet, barn owls predominantly consume rodents, including mice and voles, as well as small birds. Moles also end up on the barn owl’s menu because of their similar size and underground existence.
Barn owls have various characteristics that help them to hunt efficiently using their outstanding low-light vision and sensitive hearing, allowing them to detect the smallest movements or sounds of possible prey.
9. Blue herons
Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
You may believe that great blue herons only consume aquatic creatures, but they also hunt moles. Despite their association with water, Great Blue Herons aren’t restricted to aquatic habitats.
They can and do go looking for food on dry land. This is where they may encounter and prey on small mammals like mice, chipmunks, gophers, and moles.
While moles spend most of their lives underground, they do surface from time to time, and this is when they’re most vulnerable to predators like the Great Blue Heron. A careful and watchful heron can readily catch a mole that ventures out of its tunnel or mound.
10. Black rat snakes
Scientific Name: Pantherophis obsoletus
Black Rat Snakes are generalist predators renowned for their ability to control rodent populations, hence their name. Instead of using venom to kill their prey, they wrap themselves around it and squeeze until the victim dies.
These snakes mainly eat rodents such as rats and mice, but they also eat other animals. Their flexible dietary habits enable them to prey upon various other small mammals, including chipmunks and moles.
Scientific Name: Mephitis mephitis
Skunks are known for their diverse and opportunistic dietary habits. They eat both plants and animals, and their diet varies depending on what is available during different seasons. During the warmer months, skunks favor an insectivorous diet, feeding on grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, larvae, and even social insects like bees.
However, they may also hunt small mammals, and this is where moles come into the picture. Similar to other small mammals, moles can be an important food source for skunks, especially when other favored foods are limited.
Scientific Name: Mustela furo
Ferrets are captivating creatures known for their sleek and slender physique. Their fur is typically a luscious combination of colors, including creamy whites, rich browns, and inky blacks, with captivating mask-like markings around their eyes.
These carnivorous critters have an exceptional adaptation in their repertoire – an innate ability to hunt moles with unmatched precision. Their lithe bodies and sharp, curved claws make them formidable mole hunters, capable of pursuing these subterranean rodents through twisting tunnels.
13. Pine martens
Scientific Name: Martes martes
Pine martens are forest-dwelling creatures known for their slender and graceful appearance. They sport a rich chestnut-brown fur that gleams in the dappled sunlight of their woodland habitats. With their pointed faces and large, expressive eyes, they possess an endearing charm that contrasts their fierce hunting prowess.
Among their various prey, pine martens are known to include moles in their diet. These agile hunters navigate the forest floor with stealth and precision, making them formidable mole predators.
14. American mink
Scientific Name: Neovison vison
American mink are sleek and agile creatures, renowned for their glossy, chocolate-brown fur and a distinctive white patch on their chin. Their lithe bodies and webbed feet enable them to be skilled swimmers, while their sharp claws make them excellent climbers.
But it’s on land where their hunting prowess truly shines, as they’re known to include moles in their diet. With keen senses and relentless determination, American mink navigate the meandering tunnels of their subterranean prey.