The Molecatcher - Warwickshire

In the UK there is only one type of mole, the Common or European Mole. More accurately, it is only found in England Scotland and Wales, there being no moles in Ireland.

Living almost its entire life underground, the mole has evolved with adaptations making it entirely suited to the dark, rarefied, damp environment. 

  • The mole can function in complete darkness using its senses of hearing and smell but fundamentally 'touch'. 
  • It has sensitive hairs on its snout, rear legs and tail (Vibrissae) plus an incredibly sensitive nose (Eimers Organ) which it uses to create a 'picture' of  its immediate environment and food. It can also detect changes in air pressure indicating breaches to its tunnel system or movement indicating the presence of predators or rival moles.
  • Interestingly Moles are very good swimmers and are completely unperturbed by flooding of their tunnel systems - ( which rather 'dampens' the Old Wives Tale of putting a hosepipe into mole runs to deter them!) 

Mole territories do overlap and some runs or tunnels are shared, but they are generally solitary, having their own territory (feeding ground), which they will defend very aggressively.  

  • Mating in the spring, young (pups) are raised solely by their mother until weaned, when they disperse - often above ground, in search of their own territory. 
  • Litters are usually between 4 and 6, with adult moles having a lifespan of about 3 years. 
  • Sexing of moles can be done reasonably easily when in breeding condition, but for the rest of the year it is very difficult indeed to the untrained eye.

Whilst most moles are grey/black in colour, there are variations, including silver, peach, piebald and the rarest of all, the albino. Folklore suggesting that "the man who catches an albino mole foretells his own death"!!! 

  • Moles are insectivores, feeding on a variety of insects - but their main food source is earthworms. 
  • Moles catch worms by tunneling at the depth worms are living at that time. In dry, wet, cold, or warm conditions worms vary their depth in the soil and moles adjust to this.
  • Mole can paralyse worms with a bite to the head, storing them alive in times of plenty for later use.
  • Moles are active in cycles, which vary in length dependent upon food availability, weather conditions etc but are approximately 4 hour cycles. 
  • Moles will also feast on other small mammals and carrion and are equipped with a great set of teeth - they will give a nasty bite to humans if picked up!! 

Moles are most well known for their tunneling behaviour. Moles create a sophisticated network of tunnels in a sealed system. Whilst some soil is compacted by the mole, an excess is pushed forwards by the mole into shafts that break the surface, which forms molehills. When you compare the amount of soil moved with the size of the mole, it is an engineering feat of some magnitude! It is this behaviour that has caused conflict with man for many years. 

Moles have been hunted to prevent their damage for centuries and particularly at the turn of the 20th Century when their fur became fashionable. 

  • Moleskin, as it was known, is unique because of the set or lay of the fur. The fur not lying in a particular direction to allow the mole to move in any direction in its tunnel, without matting with soil. 
  • It is said that the fur became less fashionable when ladies of the day realised that sitting in 'motor cars' in their long Moleskin coats caused an impression of their bottom to be imprinted into the coat when they rose..........(And that, as they say, was the end of that!!)

With less insecticides used in farming and tighter control on domestic use, moles have thrived. This, coupled with the banning of strychnine in 2006 as a means of mole control, has led to significant growth in mole populations. 

  • It is widely recognised that skilled trapping by an experienced molecatcher is the most effective and selective method of limiting the damage these very successful creatures cause. 
  • Moles are haemophiliacs and are actually very fragile and susceptible to trauma, which makes trapping, with the right equipment and knowledge, the most humane method of control

And finally.......

 Never forget that the death of King William III of England was attributed to a mole.
 The King's horse stumbled in a mole run, throwing him from the saddle resulting in a broken leg and subsequent sepsis and ultimately his death - The Jacobite's rejoiced at this news, toasting "The gentlemen in black velvet" !!