All About Moles - Mole Facts & Information

About the Mole Animal

'Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill' is a phrase that has been floating around in the British vocabulary since the Tudor times and shows how long they have been around.

These small rodent like mammals have always been a part of our gardens, and whether you love them or you think of them as pests, these little creatures have a really positive impact on the soil in our gardens, especially as they eat slugs and other insects that eat plant roots. The Mole is most closely related to shrews and hedgehogs.

European Moles burrow underground and Moles spend the majority of their life underground in deep tunnels, and the only reason they can survive in these low oxygen environments in due to effectively reusing exhaled air and being able to tolerate higher levels of Carbon Dioxide.

With velvety fur, tiny eyes and external ears, a pointed nose, a short tail and big paws perfect for digging, these small mammals are built for being underground.

UK Moles

In the UK, the most common type of mole found is the European mole, scientifically known as Talpa europaea.

These moles are small mammals belonging to the Talpidae family. They are known for their cylindrical bodies, velvety fur, and strong forelimbs adapted for digging.

European moles are widespread throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, where they inhabit grasslands, woodlands, and gardens. They primarily feed on earthworms and other invertebrates found in the soil.

Old World Moles

"Old World Moles" is a term used to collectively refer to mole species found in the Old World, which includes Europe, Asia, and Africa. These moles belong to the family Talpidae and are typically characterised by their specialised adaptations for underground life, such as strong forelimbs for digging out burrows.

  1. European Mole (Talpa europaea) - Found throughout Europe, including the UK.

  2. Russian Desman (Desmana moschata) - Found in Russia and Ukraine.

  3. Siberian Mole (Talpa altaica) - Found in parts of Russia and Kazakhstan.

  4. Japanese Mole (Mogera wogura) - Found in Japan.

  5. Levant Mole (Talpa levantis) - Found in parts of the Middle East.

  6. Cape Mole (Georychus capensis) - Found in southern Africa.

These moles are primarily fossorial, meaning they spend most of their time underground.

Are Moles Blind

Although their eyesight is pretty basic, Moles are not blind. Scientist believe that moles are colourblind and nearsighted so their vision isn't that good. However, most species of moles are able to detect light very well.

Are Moles Nocturnal

Moles are not nocturnal and adult Moles are found to be active both day and night. However, Moles are most active during the quieter times of the day (for example early morning or late at night) this is to avoid humans and predators such as other mammals.

A Mole will listen out for noises, and once everything has gone quite, they will begin to travel around their tunnels.

Mole Habitat

In the wild, Moles burrow in areas with loose and moist soil where they can easily dig tunnels and live under ground.

Most often found in grassy areas, Moles love the soft soil found in these habitats as it allows them to dig tunnel systems.

Typically, Moles prefer areas that are open, however they can be found in woodlands with the right soil, burrowing under leaf litter or along the edges of the woodland.

Notorious for invading gardens and lawns, Moles are often found causing damage to our gardens by creating tunnels and mole hills. In these areas, it is the abundance of earthworms that really attracts them.

Types of Moles around the World

Around the world, there are many different species of Moles that all have unique characteristics.

European Mole - Found in Europe and the UK, known for its velvety fur and extensive tunneling habits.

Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus) - Native to eastern North America, recognised for its pointed nose and underground lifestyle.

Hairy-tailed Mole (Parascalops breweri) - Resides in the eastern United States, notable for its hairy tail and burrowing behavior.

Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata) - Inhabits eastern North America, characterised by its unique star-shaped nose and underwater foraging abilities.

American Shrew Mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii) - Native to the west coast of North America, known for its small size and insectivorous diet.

Coast Moles (genus Scapanus) - Found along the western coast of North America, comprising several species with adaptations for digging in loose soil.

Long-tailed Mole (Scaptonyx fusicaudus) - Resides in parts of Asia, recognised for its long tail and subterranean lifestyle.

How Long Do Moles Live

The lifespan of the European Mole is three to five years. Like many small mammals and other wildlife, European moles have relatively short lifespans compared to larger animals. Factors such as predation, disease, and environmental conditions can significantly influence their lifespan in the wild.

How Big Are Moles

Moles are about 4 to 8 inches in length (not including their tail), but most species tails are relatively short at only 1 to 2 inches.

As part of the mammal society, Moles are lightweight and only weigh around 57 to 170 grams. This range can fluctuate based on age, sex and season. For example, the female mole is slightly smaller than the male mole.

Moles have streamlined bodies with short legs and broad, strong forearms equipped with powerful claws for digging. Their bodies are adapted for life underground, allowing them to move efficiently through tunnels.

A Guide to A Moles Diet

Moles mostly eat invertebrates found underground in soil and Earthworms are one of their favourite food choices! Depending on the habitat, they may also eat a variety of other small organisms.

Expert hunters, Moles can detect the vibrations of Earthworms moving through the soil and capture them using their strong claws. This is a highly nutritious source of food for these mammals.

Moles also love insects and insect larvae - this includes beetles, ants, spiders and centipedes. Using their keen sense of smell, the Mole can probe the soil to find these creatures.

While moles are primarily carnivorous, they may occasionally ingest small amounts of plant matter, such as seeds or roots, especially if they are encountered while digging through the soil.

Mole Breeding

Typically, the Moles breeding season generally begins late winter to early spring. Normally solitary animals, the male Mole will extend their tunnels to see out females during the mating season. They will mark territories with their scent to warn off rival males.

Once male moles locate a female, they begin courtship behaviour. This is vocalisations, scent marking and physical interactions.

For female moles, the gestation period is only around four to six weeks. The mother will create a special nest chamber within her burrow where she will give birth to around 2 to 7 offspring.

For the young Moles, the female will provide all care by nursing and protecting them until they are old enough to venture out. Born hairless and blind, young moles are vulnerable in the first few weeks of their life. They do develop rapidly however.

Once the Moles are weaned, they will disperse from their mother's range and establish their own territories.

Five Facts about Moles

  1. Moles are renowned for their exceptional digging abilities. They can tunnel through soil at an impressive rate of up to 18 feet (about 5.5 meters) per hour. Their strong forelimbs and specialised claws are perfectly adapted for excavating complex underground networks.

  2. One of the most distinctive features of moles is their noses. Different mole species have various adaptations to aid in their subterranean lifestyle. For instance, the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) has a star-shaped nose with 22 fleshy tentacles, which it uses to sense prey underwater.

  3. Moles are most active during the night. This behaviour helps them avoid predators and conserve energy while they forage for food underground. However, they may also emerge during the day, particularly in cloudy or overcast weather.

  4. Despite their small size, moles have remarkably high metabolic rates. To sustain their energy-intensive digging and tunneling activities, Moles need to consume large amounts of food, often amounting to more than their body weight each day.

  5. While Moles are sometimes considered pests due to their tunneling activities in gardens and lawns, they play vital roles in ecosystems. By aerating the soil and controlling populations of insects and soil-dwelling pests, Moles contribute to soil health and ecosystem balance.