The talpins are chiefly fossorial, the uropsilins prefer an above-ground lifestyle, and the desmanins are semi-aquatic.

An eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) burrowing. (Photo by E. R. Deg-ginger. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

moles typically push the leftover dirt from deep-tunnel excavations to the surface, where it forms small molehills. Molehills are usually only 6-12 in (15-30 cm) in diameter and 3-6 in (8-15 cm) tall. Deeper tunnels provide living quarters, breeding sites, and, in winter, protection from cold weather. Moles will also retreat to deeper tunnels during periods of summer drought.

Semi-aquatic species may also utilize burrows for mating or as winter shelter, but spend the bulk of their active hours in the water rather than underground. Some, like the Pyre-nean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus), prefer fast-flowing streams and rivers, while others like the Russian desman, favor slow-moving streams and lakes. Surface-dwelling species are likely to find shelter under a log or leaf litter instead of a subterranean tunnel.

Active day and night, most moles are solitary animals, although some will share the same foraging grounds. In this case, they usually continue to maintain their distance from one another, often by covering the same area but at different times of the day. The Russian desman appears to be more social than other moles, and will not only share foraging tunnels but, in at least one case, its den.

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