[Tweeters] The Port Townsend's(?) Mole

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Apr 13 04:26:44 PDT 2014

Still camped out here in Port Townsend, where I've discovered a mole.

Now this is not the Russian mole of spy novels (which my dads bookshelves are full of), because what would a Russian spy do here in Port Townsend? Possibly looking for the next Crimea? I mean Port Townsend is a seaport, with a naval weapons depot, and the town is no doubt full of pinko commie sympathizers ("better pink than fink"), Marxist philosophers (Karl had some great ideas, but I kinda like the other Marx brothers), forest radicals, etc. And Port Townsend has a suspiciously good food co-op for the size of the town - a sure sign of creeping socialism.

The problem with this theory is that Russia aint really communist, or even pinko anymore - just another sorry-pants oligarchy, which are quite popular these days around the world. With the oligarchs that is. I don't imagine Port Townsend being up with that.

Moving right along, the mole I found (the burrowing animal ) was really more interesting, although dead. All the moles I've ever seen (except one big honkin' Townsend's Mole) have been dead, but all pretty fresh. They have remarkable velvety fur ( favorite mole band?; The Velvet Underground).

Well my mole find the other day was'nt so fuzzy. In fact it was pretty much a flattened skeleton, with just enough dried parchment- like skin to hold the bones together. I found it under a woodpile that my dad was moving. The only way I knew it even was a mole was because it still had one front paw sticking out - the broad palmed dirt paddle, with 5 claws, looking remarkably like a human hand .

On closer inspection, I saw a very strange looking bone, which turned out to be the lower jaw bone, fringed with fine teeth. I got out my old 10x hand lens to examine the teeth. Unlike the dreaded plant chomping Gopher, and other rodents, the mole doesnt have plant nipping incisors, and plant crushing molars; the mole is an Insectivore and has a jaw full of sharp teeth. It really reminded me of another skull I'd seen a picture of - that of a toothed whale. In another exciting episode of Parallel Evolution ('form follows function' and all that), the mole and whales need sharp teeth to grab and tear the slippery fish, squid, or in the moles case, worms, that they eat. Even the moles molars are sharp.

Now that whole Townsend's thing. For sort of literary kinda reasons, I would like my mole to be a Townsend's Mole. But it could be the similar, but smaller Coast (or Pacific) Mole. Aparently you cant tell by the skull details, and this specimen is only about 4 inches long, so could be a youngster of either type, both found around here.

Port Townsend was not named for the Townsend's Mole, or vice versa. Port Townsend was named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver for his buddy and fellow royal military nerd, the Marqui of Townshend.

John Kirk Townsend , a name that should be familiar to northwest naturalists, was an American naturalist and ornithologist who explored the northwest in the 1830's and has a fairly long list of creatures with his name attatched to 'em, from moles, to bats, voles etc.

Since this is Tweeters, I should note the man's name is also associated with two birds, as you probably know - The Townsends Warbler, that wonderfuly colorful bird of the conifers, and the Townsends Solitaire, which in my opinion is one of the most charismatic nondescript birds one could hope for. You can see both of these in Port Townsend. If your'e lucky.

Jeff Gibson
NSI ( Natural Scene Investigator)
snooping in,
Port Townsend Wa

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