The Mole

Latin Name: Talpa europaea

Description: The mole has a velvety dark grey to black coat of fur which is made of tiny sensory hairs. The front feet are directed sideways in a spade like shape with long claws. It has a narrow pointed snout and tiny eyes. The mole does not have external ears. It has a tail of about 4cm and a body size of about 11-16cm from head to rump. A mole can weigh between 60-125g, with the male weighing more than the female.

Habitat: Lives underground most of the time in loose soil. It inhabits woodland, grassland, meadows, fields, orchards and gardens. The mole generally does not inhabitat regularly cultivated land and sandy, stony or waterlogged soil which does not have alot of earthworms in it.

Food: The mole eats mainly earthworms, especially during the Winter, but it also eats slugs, millipedes and insect larvae in the soil. Feeding mainly on earthworms, the mole does not need to drink frequently as the earthworm is 85% water. In Autumn, the mole stores hundreds of earthworms so that it has a supply of food through the Winter. When it stores the earthworm, it chews the front end so that they remain alive but can not crawl away. A mole needs to eat frequently and in a day can eat the equivalent of it’s own body weight.

Breeding: The mole has a short mating season which is between March and May. The male visits the female in her underground den and then the male leaves, taking no part in raising the young. The gestation period is about 30 days and the female mole can have 1 or 2 litters a year. A litter can be between 2 and 7 baby moles which are born naked and with their eyes closed, in a nest dug by the female. The young will develop fur within 2 weeks and open their eyes after about 3 weeks. Baby moles are suckled for approximately 4-5 weeks and become independent within 2 months, when they then leave the nest to find their own territory.

Distribution: The mole can be found in most of Europe, except Ireland, Iceland, Scandinavia and the far South. This creature is widespread in Britain and can also be found in central and Northern Asia.

Did You Know?

  • Moles spend most of their lives tunnelling underground (they are subterranean) , although they will occasionally appear above ground.
  • A single mole can inhabit a network of tunnels stretching over 30-50 m.
  • Moles are active both day and night.
  • They dig their tunnels using their spade like front feet, creating a network of tunnels which may be as much as 1m below ground.
  • At intervals, they push up soil which humans classify as molehills.
  • The silky coat on the mole helps it to move through the tunnels easily.
  • The mouth and nostrils on a mole face downwards so that they do not get filled with soil.
  • The mole is seen as a pest by the farmer and gardener because the molehills push up the soil and destroy the crops, plants or grass in the moles path.
  • Young moles can sometimes be seen above ground in the Summer as they look for new territories.
  • Moles are territorial and if a rival male enters another males territory then the moles will fight, sometimes until one of the moles is killed.
  • The mole is a solitary creature except at breeding time.
  • The mole does not have good eye sight nor a good sense of smell, instead the mole’s body is very sensitive to touch and can detect vibrations in the soil which helps it to locate food more easily.

Unfortunately for nature lovers, the mole spends most of it’s life underground and is seldom seen. Although I have not been lucky enough to see a mole on my farm (yet!), I know they inhabit the surrounding fields because their molehills are in evidence, much to my husband’s annoyance!

If you are finding molehills a problem then click on this link for expert advice on mole control.