It eats faster than every other mammal, it can smell underwater, it’s practically blind—and it may just be the strangest-looking creature on earth. We’re describing the star-nosed mole, of course. It’s one of the most common moles in cottage country, and the only one in North America that both dives and digs.
A star-nosed mole’s “star”—22 tentacles surrounding its nostrils—is a not-so-secret weapon. The appendage has about 13,000 nerve endings, which is five times the amount we have in our hands. Such a super-sensitive snout means the mole can ID food—usually bugs—in about eight milliseconds. Then, it’s chow time! Snarfing three hundred pieces of food in one minute? Easy.
Like all moles, these guys are pro diggers. Using their front legs as shovels, they’ll excavate elaborate underground networks (sometimes kilometres long), usually within three metres of the water’s edge. As winter approaches, a mole preps by gaining weight. But only in the tail, which swells to three or four times its normal circumference, then acts as a fat reserve during the cold months.