Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Insectivora / Talpidae / Talpa / Species
Talpa europaea - European mole (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Mole
  • Common Mole
  • Moldwarp
  • Want
  • Taupe
  • Famh (Scottish Gaelic)
  • Gwadd (Welsh)
  • Twrch daear (Welsh)
  • Taupe d'Europe (French)
  • Taupe commune
  • Maulwurf (German)
  • Europäischer Maulwurf

Names for new-borns / juveniles

 
Names for males  
Names for females  

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General Appearance

Elongated cylindrical body with very short thick velvety black fur, no obvious neck but head tapering to pink fleshy snout. Short tail, spade-like forelimbs (B142, B144).

Similar Species

--
Sexual Dimorphism
  • Minimal. Males generally larger than females. External genitalia very similar.(B142)
  • Males prepuce length >6mm, perineum >5mm long; females prepuce length <6mm, perineum <4mm long (B142)

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References

Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B51, B141, B142, B143, B144, B147, B221

Husbandry references:
B156.12.w12, D24, D25

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Moles (Insectivores)

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Moles (Insectivores)

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • Have been maintained successfully in captivity (B156.12.w12).
  • Rarely present as wildlife casualties (D24).
  • Captive moles frequently die within first 24 hours (D25).
  • Earth deep enough for burrowing in should be provided at all times (D25).
  • Require water even on high-moisture diet (D25).
Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Length Head-body length: 4.4-6.8 in. / 11-17cm (B144)
  • Males 121-159mm (mean 143mm) (B142);
  • Females 113-144mm (mean 135mm) (B142).
Height --
Adult weight General 2-4 oz. / 60-120g (B144).
Male 87-128g (mean 110g) (B142).
Female 72-106g (mean 85g) (B142).
New-born weight 3.5g (B142); 0.11-0.14 oz. / 3-4g (B144).
Growth rate 40g by 22 days. Similar to adults by three months (B142).

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Head

General
  • Head tapers into body, no obvious neck (B142).

Skull: About 35mm long. Long and narrow and tapering from middle of braincase to just behind canines. (B142).

Nose: Nose pad pink, fleshy (B142).

Ears: no pinna (external ear) (B142, B144, B147).

Dentition (Teeth)
  • I3/3 C1/1 P4/4 M 3/3.
  • Upper canines enlarged.

(B142, B147).

Eyes

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Legs and Tracks

  • Limbs very short.
  • Hindlimbs slender, basically hairless.
  • Forelimbs shovel-like, adapted for digging: feet broader than long, flat, with five large strong straight claws and surface area increasd by radial sesamoid bone.
  • Sensory fringe hairs on forelimbs.

(B142, B144, B147).

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Tail

Short, constricted base, usually carried erect, hairs coars and sparse (B142).

Length: 0.8-1.4 in. / 2-3.4cm (B144)

  • Males 26-40mm (mean 33mm) (B142)
  • Females 25-38mm (mean 32mm) (B142).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female Very short (6mm summer, 9mm winter), dense, velvety.
  • Usually velvety black, ventral paler.
  • May have silvery luster.
  • No fur on snout or limbs.
  • Mid-ventral area normally stained yellow-brown, particularly in breeding season, from skin gland secretions.
  • Sensory fringe hairs on forelimbs and tail.
  • Vibrissae on snout associated with Eimer's organs - sensory receptors

(B142, B144, B147)

Variations (If present) Albino, cream, golden, apricot, rust, cinnamon, piebald (irregular buff or white blotches), whitish and grey coat colours reported (B142, B147).
Moult
  • Twice yearly (B142). Four times yearly (B147)
  • Spring moult starts posterior abdomen, spreads over flanks and sides to back (B142).
  • Autumn moult reverses this progression (B142).
New-born / Juvenile Naked at birth (B142).

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics

Naked and blind (B142).

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

  • Reproductive: 4 pairs of nipples. Testes in sacs near tail base, outside abdomen but no external swelling visible. Two uterine horns opening at right-angles into long s-shaped uterovaginal canal (B142).
  • Scent glands: Paired preputial glands, in both males and females, larger in males. Largest in breeding season (B142).
  • Skin: Thicker on chest (B142).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season
  • Spring - March to May.
  • First pregnancies recorded March in England, May-June in north-eastern Scotland.

(B142, B147)

Oestrus / Ovulation
  • Oestrus probably less than 24 hrs (B142).
Gestation / Pregnancy
Parturition / Birth --
Neonatal development
  • Birth: naked, blind.
  • 14 days: fur started.
  • 22 days: eyes open.
  • 33 days: start to leave nest
  • 4-5 weeks: weaned.
  • 5-6 weeks: disperse.

(B142, B147)

Litter size
Time between Litters / Litters per year
  • One, rarely two (particularly in south of Engleand and Europe) (B142, B147).
Lactation / Milk Production
Sexual Maturity
  • Spring following birth (B142); six months old (B147); 10-12 months (B144).
Longevity
  • Up to 6 years, but most not more than three years and mainly less than one year.
  • Highest mortality during post-weaning dispersal.

(B142)

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Natural Diet

Mainly invertebrates.
  • Main prey earthworms, particularly Lumbricus terrestris.
  • Also insect larvae, less myriapods and molluscs.
  • (snakes, lizards, mice, small birds B147)
  • 80g mole needs about 50g earthworms/day (about 185 kJ/day).

(B142, B144, B147).

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces --
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n = 34; FNa =64 (B142).
Other --

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

  • Mainly soil invertebrates falling into tunnels,
  • Also items obtained while digging.
  • Occasionally seen scavenging on surface.
  • Commonly store food, particularly in spring and autumn.
  • Often die if deprived of food for 10-12 hours (B147).

(B142, B147)

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Parental Behaviour

  • Female returns to nest 5-6 times daily.
  • Post-weaning dispersal above ground at 5-6 weeks.

(B142)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

Intra-specific
  • Solitary and aggressive to intruders.
  • Territories largely exclusive outside breeding season.
  • Home range of males twice that of females outside breeding season.
  • Males tunnel extensive areas in breeding season.
  • Chase through tunnels, fight with forelimbs and teeth until subordinate individual withdraws (both sexes).
  • Temporal separation where adjacent territories overlap minimises agonistic encounters.

(B142)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Promiscuous (B142).

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Predation in Wild

  • Birds of prey: tawny owls, buzzards;
  • Carnivorous mammals: stoats, weasels, foxes, domestic cats, dogs.

(B142, B144)

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Activity Patterns

  • Almost all time is spent below ground.
  • Dig tunnel systems just below surface and to 1m and deeper in soil.
  • Two concentric circular tunnels at different levels, with connections between them, central nest, lateral tunnels B147
  • Use alternate strokes of forelimbs, bracing against tunnel sides with hind limbs.
  • At internals scoop loose soil with forelimbs and push along to vertical or sloping tunnel to surface.

(B142).

Circadian
  • Active day and night.
  • Three active periods, each 3 to 4 hourrs, during 24 hours.
  • In breeding season males may sleep in tunnel system rather than return to nest.
  • Only two active periods for males in autumn.
  • Males generally spend more time active than do females.
  • Lactating females return to nest 4 to 6 times daily.
  • Close synchronisation of start and cessation of activity between neighbouring individuals.

(B142, B144, B147)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • Most habitats where soil sufficiently deep for tunnelling and adequate prey.
  • Deciduous woodland, arable land and pasture.
  • Uncommon in coniferous forests, moorland, sanddunes, stony soil, sandy soil, acid soil, permanently waterlogged soil.

(B142, B143, B144).

Up to 1000m altitude in Wales and Scotland, 2400m in Alps (B142, B143).

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Single nest: an enlarged section of tunnel lined with dry leaves/grass/paper.
  • Nest in surface mound where ground water level high.
  • Two or more nests may be used by breeding females.

(B142, B147)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal
  • Europe and Russia (Western Siberia): from Pyrenees and Great Britain eastwards to River Ob and River Irtysh.
  • Found on many islands in Baltic Sea.
  • In Britain: mainland, Skye, Mull, Anglesea, Isle of Wight, Alderney, Jersey.
  • Not found: Ireland, large portions of Iberian peninsula, southern Apennines, south Balkans, Scandinavia (except Denmark, south Sweden and south Finland), most North Sea islands, Mediterranean islands (except Cres in north Adriatic).

(B51, B142, B143, B147)

Occasional and Accidental --
Introduced

--.

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Conservation

Intraspecific variation

Two subspecies recognised:
  • Talpa europaea europaea
  • Talpa europaea frisius Müller, 1776

Size varies; usually decreases with altitude. Also variation in tooth number (increase and decrease) between populations (B143).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
(Importance)
  • Common where habitat suitable (up to 16 per hectare). Populations fairly stable (B143, B144).

  • In Britain: native, common. Pre-breeding population estimate of about 31,000,000, with 19,750,000 in England, 8,000,000 in Scotland, 3,250,000 in Wales. Population estimate of this widely-distributed species was based on a limited amount of data and considered likely to be inaccurate by up to 50% in either direction (B221).

General Legislation --
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats
  • Previously (start of 20th century) large-scale trapping for pelts - still hunted for fur in some countries.
  • Still persecuted as agricultural pest, poisoned.

(B142, B143).

Captive Populations Relatively easy to keep in captivity (B142).
Trade --

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