Mammal Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Condylura cristata
Star-nosed Mole


Distinguishing Features - Length: 152 - 211 mm; Weight: 30 - 75 g. Star-nosed moles can not be mistaken for any other animal. Not only do they possess the large fossorial forelegs which are typical of all moles, but their nostrils are surrounded by a naked disk with 22 pink fleshy tentacles which they use to hunt invertebrates along the water-bottom. Its powerful limbs, long tail and fusiform body are as useful for swimming as for digging, and their velvety black coat keeps them warm when they are submerged.

Star-nosed Mole Habitat

Found in eastern regions of Canada's boreal forest and in the Eastern United States. Prefers wet areas, most common in loamy soils near streams, lake edges, and swamps. This mole comes above ground much more often than other mole species and is an adept swimmer.


Diet includes worms, beetles, ants, larvae, slugs, salamanders, young snakes, and nesting mice when encountered during tunneling. Its aquatic diet includes invertebrates like caddisfly and midge larvae, as well as small fishes, worms and insects. Crustaceans and molluscs are eaten less frequently.


The star-nosed mole is active both by day and night. It appears to rely most heavily on its tactile sense, particularly that of its star. Though this mammal is relatively poorly understood, it is believed to be quite social, sharing tunnels and runways with other members of the species, and possibly using scent in communication.

As with other semiaquatic mammals, grooming of the thick, insulating fur is important. These moles can be observed to swim under ice in water cold enough to kill a submerged human in a few minutes. Low temperatures are especially challenging to small warm-blooded animals, because they have a very small volume in proportion to their surface area, resulting in rapid heat loss.

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