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 on lawns which is their only experience of these secretive animals.
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.
Diet of a mole
- A mole’s diet mainly consists of earthworms, but they will 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 body weight 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 tunneling. 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.