The Mole

The mole is an extraordinary little animal. In mainland Britain, there are 31million moles but most of us know little about this creature. In fact, moles are quite remarkable. Weighing around 100g, they spend most of their time underground, out of sight. They are nearly blind, so rely on detecting the scent of their prey using their delicate snout. They also use the whiskery hairs on their face to feel their prey.

Moles need to eat at least half their body weight in food every day. Their broad spade-like hands, armed with thick earth scraping nails, enable them to dig their tunnels. It takes a mole four and a half hours to dig a one metre tunnel to depths of up to 5ft.

They create a network of tunnels more than a kilometre long but within a territory only 30-40 metres across.

To clear a tunnel, they have to push soil to the surface which is how we detect their presence.

A mole can lift around 2kg - 20 times its body weight. An Olympic powerlifter can only lift twice their own body weight by comparison!

Both male and female moles are solitary animals, only coming together for a few hours when mating. They are very territorial and female moles can be very aggressive in defending their territory. Three or four babies are usually born in mid-April and the mother will feed them for four weeks. During this time they gain weight extremely quickly. Once they have left home, the young moles have to fend for themselves. Only about 40% survive to their first birthday .

Moles can be a nightmare to the gardener but they do contribute to the health of soil by turning it, draining it and mixing its nutrients. This is, however, outweighed by the devastation they can cause to lawns and flower beds. Moles are really quite sweet looking creatures, often depicted on ornaments or in illustrations with their little pink snouts and over-large hands. But it is unusual to actually see one out and about.

They do deserve a little credit for their amazing digging skills though, even if they do not score well in the popularity vote.

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