Harold Wood, age 10, of Whittier, N. C:, for his question:
Do moles have eyes?
Of all the animals in the world, the velvety mole works hardest for a living. He burns up so much energy tunneling for food that he is forever hungry. But he must keep going for the grubs and insects he needs can be had only by digging and more digging, He may have to tunnel 75 feet in a single night, for he must have his own weight in food every 24 hours. And he cannot eat vegetables: A single mole may devour 50 pounds of grubs and beetles every year
Mr. Mole is built for mining work down in the dark ground. His little body is streamlined like a torpedo. His snout is tapered rather like a piglet’s and he has a mouthful of strong, sharp teeth. His legs are so short that his wide flat paws seem to be joined to his body. The front paws are flat spades almost an inch wide. They are the tools of his mining trade, the shovels with which he digs his tunnels. The velvety mole is about six inches long plus an inch of bare tail.
To watch him dig, you might think he is swimming an old fashion breast stroke. The tips of his fingers move together to the front of his nose. Then they pull out and around, spading a little cave in the soil. The velvety fellow then shoves his nose forward and inches his body along. Meantime, if no grub has been discovered, the shovel hands get set for another forward stroke.
All the time, Mr. Mole is using his sharp nose to smell out grubs, beetles and earthworms. His sense of smell is very well developed as it must be for him to smell out the food he needs so much. Down in the quiet earth there is little to be heard. Ears and hearing are not important to the mole. The outer ears are there, but they are so small that they do not upset the smooth streamlines of the velvety body.
And down in the dark earth there is nothing to be seen at all. The mole lives almost all of his life in total darkness. Actually he does not need eyes or eyesight. However, he does have eyes. They are hidden deep in his soft fur and the eye balls are no bigger than pin heads. You might think that such little eyes would be totally blind, In fact, the mole is almost blind, though not quite. He can see dimly the difference between darkness and light, but that is about all.
The mole needs his eyesight no more than two or three times a year, This is in springtime when he comes above ground to find leaves and twigs. He is looking for soft materials to line the nest for a new generation of moles. At such time, Mr. Mole risks his life for his children. For out in the daylight, his poor eyesight may prove fatal to him.
Bright eyed rodents and other small animals can see the shadow of the hawk before he pounces: Not so the mole. Very often he fumbles along the ground, unaware of the soft swooping wings above him until too late. More often he is lucky and makes his trips above ground when hawks, owls and other hungry meat eaters are looking the other way. In this case the soft underground nest is built on time and a new generation of moles arrives to carry on the mining work of the family.