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Desert Diary


A popular group of religious publications, the "Left Behind" series, warns of the fate of sinners left behind to meet their fate. But for some critters, it's not always such a bad thing—at least, when you consider the alternative. And for many plants and animals, the alternative is death.

The Eastern Mole is a good example of this. Requiring moist loamy or sandy soils and a rich, underground food source of insects and other invertebrates, it soon disappears when its needs aren't met. Back in moister times, these fossorial animals that spend their entire lives underground extended far west of their present-day, main geographic range. Increasing aridity on the western margin slowly drove local populations into extinction. There were, however, a couple of favored patches forming islands of suitable conditions in the sea of developing dryness—patches where moles continued to eke out a living, unaware even that they'd been left behind. Thus, marooned in the eastern parts of the Chihuahuan Desert, in Presidio County, Texas, and in Coahuila, Mexico, two populations have survived for millennia.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Oregon Mole

Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes of an Oregon Mole (a good image of our species being not available) with its prey. After Nelson, 1918.



A mole has been obtained recently (2003) in Coahuila—apparently the first one taken in over 50 years. So, the population still hangs on.


Nelson, E. W. 1918. Wild animals of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. 612 pp.

Schmidly, D. J. 1977. The Mammals of Trans-Pecos Texas. Texas A&M University Press, College Station. 225.