All about moles
The mole is among the most common and widespread of mammals in the UK, but because it spends most of its life in the tunnels which it digs, it is rarely seen. For most people, it is the familiar sight of molehills of soil in woods and fields and even on lawns which is their only experience of these secretive animals.
What to look for
Moles are only about 15cm long, but have stout forearms and broad front paws with strong claws which give the animal its ability to tunnel so effectively underground. Their bodies are roughly cylindrical with no neck and a pointed nose, and they are covered in thick, dark fur.
Did you know?
- A mole’s diet mainly consists of earthworms, but they also feed on beetles and other insects, even baby mice and occasionally shrews if they come upon them while on the surface. A mole needs to eat the equivalent of its own bodyweight each day. In autumn they make a store of hundreds of earthworms to last them through the winter. The worms are usually chewed off at the front end so they cannot crawl away, but remain alive and so provide fresh food for several months.
- Moles breed between March and May. The gestation period is 30 days and 1-2 litters are born a year. Each litter has 3-6 young which are suckled for 4-5 weeks and become independent of their parents at about 2 months. Outside the mating season, moles lead solitary lives, each one in its own system of tunnels.
- Moles are not blind, as most people believe. They do have eyes and internal ears, but these are very small to prevent them being clogged up and damaged during tunnelling. Although they can see, the mole’s eyesight is poor, with no ability to detect colours, just light from dark and movement. However, the mole has a special weapon to help it find other animals underground - an area of bare pink skin on the snout covered in tiny pimples that detect movement and the scents of prey and other moles.
- Large molehills mark the position of a nest; a line of small molehills marks the direction of a deep tunnel; a continuous line of earth marks a very shallow tunnel.
Moles are considered as pests where they damage lawns and many methods are used to try to eradicate them, often with only limited success.
Wild Life Skills #6 - Mole watching
Nick Baker introduces us to an unsual garden visitor - the mole. This is a rare chance to get up close to this elusive and rarely seen creature. Marvel at his flexible pointy nose and massive tunnel digging feet (that’s the mole, not Nick!).
The mole is common and widespread throughout the United Kingdom
The mole can be found in a wide range of habitats, including woods, fields and gardens, where they are oftwen very unwelcome.
Where to see
Although moles are active both at night and during the day, they spend almost all their time underground. However, they do emerge from the ground occasionally, usually in long periods of dry weather when there is a shortage of food. If you go out very early in the morning after a few weeks without rain, you might be able to hear a mole tearing clumps of grass while searching for food. There is also the chance of seeing one as it scurries from one feeding place to another.