Moles are powerful streamlined tunnellers

Posted in Animals, Nature, Wildlife on Wednesday, 2 January 2013

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This edited article about moles originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 802 published on 28th May 1977.

Mole, picture, image, illustration


This streamlined little creature is beautifully designed for excavating the many tunnels in which it spends its time. The strong shoulder muscles have so developed that the neck and head appear to be as one with the body. Even the fur is short and upright, offering no resistance to the rough surfaces of the tunnels.

The eyes are very small, scarcely visible beneath the surrounding fur, and, because the mole spends most of its time in the dark, its eyesight is extremely poor, in fact it can just about see the difference between night and day.

Instead of external ears, like most other animals, the mole has just flapless holes, but tests have shown that it responds to sounds and, therefore, is not deaf, as is sometimes believed.

The face ends with a naked pink snout, richly supplied with blood and nerve cells and highly sensitive to touch, which enable the animal to hunt.

Have you noticed mole-hills in the fields or in gardens? These are heaps of earth thrown up by the animal as it burrows its way underground.

A mole’s run is a collection of tunnels connected by short passages, with a number of blind-ended galleries where it hunts for the worms and insects upon which it continually feeds.

Mole-hills only appear when the weather is damp and the earthworms are close to the surface. When it is dry and the worms are deep down in the ground, the mole burrows deeply also.

Although when fully-grown the animal is only five or six inches long, it has an enormous appetite and needs to eat frequently – should it for any reason have to miss a meal for twelve hours, it would die. Water, too, is very necessary, and part of the mole’s mining operations are directed towards sinking a shaft to a pond or ditch to satisfy its needs in this direction.

The unusual forefeet, which have a passing resemblance to hands, are the mole’s tools, and by using them in a way similar to a swimmer, and with the back legs for propulsion, the animal can move at quite a useful speed digging and working in its own world, safe from the beasts of prey which live on small mammals.

In springtime, at the onset of the breeding season, the males become fierce and vicious. They will fight to the death and at this time of the year have been known to leave the safety of the burrows to settle a dispute in daylight.

The female mole lives quite apart from the male and excavates the nest chamber in her own dwelling place. She usually seeks the shelter of bushes under which to dig, and makes the nest soft and warm with a lining of grass and dry leaves. A huge mound of earth, larger than those found in the open fields, is an indication that a special chamber of this sort lies below.

Young moles are born in the spring, and there are usually from three to five in a litter. At first they are pink and naked, but they grow very rapidly, and by the time they are ten days old, the skin has darkened to grey. At two weeks they are clothed in short velvety fur.

The mother takes care of her little ones until they are four weeks old and about three-parts grown. Then it is time for them to leave the nest and start tunnelling away for themselves.

Moles are solitary creatures, quite content to spend their lives in the secure darkness of their runs untroubled by any predator but man.

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