Sunday, July 12, 2015

A bit of natural history of moles

There are an estimated 35-40 million moles living in the UK, most of them in my garden.

The European mole Talpa europaea is continental immigrant but a native of the UK. They are up to 150mm long, males weighing 110g and females around 85g.

Moles are usually black or very dark brown but other colours are not uncommon and range through orangy-brown to grey, cream and silver.

Living underground, moles don’t follow day-night patterns of activity. Instead they work for four hours and then sleep for four hours, repeating the cycle all through our day and night.

But moles are not blind: they are light sensitive but their eyesight is poor. And they do have ears but these are internal, located behind their shoulders, so a mole’s nose and throat send sounds towards them.

They build a nest about 1m underground and often store headless earthworms in it for times when the ground is flooded or frozen.

Moles feed almost exclusively on worms in the winter but half their summer diet is insect larvae. They eat around 20 per day or half their body weight.

Males and females are solitary, apart from in the mating season in spring. Then, males go looking for females. They usually have one litter a year with between two and seven babies born, after a four-week pregnancy, in April and May.

They leave the nest after four weeks and then, after a few more weeks leave for good to find territories of their own.

This natural history of moles ought to give me some idea of how to catch, deter or dispose of these unwelcome pests.

But I feel I need to check out mole catchers first. What does this profession have to offer? Perhaps it has prospects!

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