European mole

Talpa europaea

SUBFAMILY

Talpinae

TAXONOMY

Talpa europaea Linnaeus, 1758, Engelholm, Sweden. Four subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Mole, common mole; French: Taupe, taupe d'Europe; German: Europäischer Maulwurf; Spanish: Topo europeo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The total length is 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm), with the tail 0.8-1.6 in (2-4 cm) long. Average adult weight ranges from 2.1-4.2 oz (60-120 g). Gray mole with a long snout, vertically oriented fur, and shovel-like hands. The back is dark gray, sometimes black, and the belly is lighter gray. On average, males are slightly larger and darker than females.

DISTRIBUTION

Temperate Europe to western Russia. HABITAT

Ranges from forests to fields, not as common in farm fields, and seldom in sand dune areas.

BEHAVIOR

Fossorial moles that often use common, existing tunnels from previous generations. These common tunnels service many moles. Individuals do, however, construct shallow foraging tunnels that are used only by that one mole. Like many other fos-sorial talpids, this species builds a nest of leaves during breeding season in an underground chamber within the tunnel complex.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This carnivorous mole primarily eats earthworms, which it identifies mostly by touch. On occasion, it will also kill and eat small snakes, lizards, rodents, and birds. This species is known to maim earthworms so that they are unable to dig their own escape burrows, and store the captives alive for later consumption.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Probably promiscuous. Mating occurs in the spring, with a litter of three to four altricial young born 28 days later. Females typically have one litter per year. The young are weaned at four to five weeks and become sexually mature at six months.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Gardeners, farmers, and homeowners typically regard this species as a pest because of its tunneling lifestyle. Its tunneling also aerates the soil, but this benefit is rarely acknowledged. ♦

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