Mammal Status UK part four  Mole. Text courtesy of Natural England.org

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Mole Talpa europaea   preferred habitat

The mole is a highly adaptable species, found in most habitats where invertebrate prey is present and the soil is sufficiently deep to allow tunnel construction. In low-lying areas and regions prone to flooding, it can build more permanent ‘fortresses’ which contain a nest chamber above the level of the surrounding land. These are often provisioned with stores of decapitated worms for consumption when the surrounding area is flooded or frozen. Originally an inhabitant of broadleaved woodlands, the mole thrives in pastures and on arable land. It lives at low densities in coniferous forests, on moorland and in sand-dune systems, probably because of the paucity of suitable prey (Harris and Yalden, 2008). Home ranges are small — around 0.2ha for females and 0.3ha for males — and adults rarely disperse once a territory is established (Stone and Gorman, 1985). Although it is aggressive towards intruders, agonistic encounters are very rare (Gorman and Stone, 1990). Earthworms are the most important prey item, particularly in winter, whereas in summer up to 50% of the diet is formed of insects (adult and larvae) (Funmilayo, 1979).

Status and conservation status.

Status native.

Conservation status.

 IUCN Red List (GB: LC; England: [LC]; Scotland: [LC]; Wales: [LC]; Global: LC). • This species has not been assessed for Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive.

Mole from above.

Image courtesy of MatthiasKabel  CC BY-SA 3.0 license.File:European mole from top.jpg

Two density estimates from Harris et al. (1995) fell into the LCM2007 ‘Improved Grassland’ category; these were 1.3ha-1 for lowland improved grassland, and 4ha-1 for semi-improved grassland. For the current analysis, a mean value of 2.65ha-1 was used.

 No papers were identified with population size estimates for moles, nor were any estimates obtained from expert opinion. The population density estimates (Table 5.1a) are therefore taken from Harris et al. (1995). These were based on expert opinion, where each habitat

 was deemed ‘poor’ or ‘good’, and assigned a density of 1.3ha-1 or 4ha-1, respectively.

 England 11,500,000  area of suitable habitat {ha} Population size.[24,300,000]

 Scotland 5,800,000   area of suitable habitat {ha} Population size.   [12,200,000]

 Wales 1,910,000    Area of suitable habitat     Population size [4,900,000]

 Britain 19,210,000     Area of suitable habitat  Population size. [41,400,000]


No percentage occupancy data were available; therefore, the population size is overestimated for this species. 46% of the estimated population size for moles was derived from improved grassland habitat, with a further 19% from arable and horticulture. These habitats represent 38% and 33% of the species’ range, respectively (Figure 5.1b). As the density estimates for these habitats were derived from Harris et al. (1995), a sensitivity analysis was not possible. To assess reliability, we have considered the population density estimates from Harris et al. (1995) to be the expert opinion of the authors and, therefore, to represent a restricted area of the species’ range


Total population size was estimated to be 41,400,000 in Britain, with 24,300,000 in England, 12,200,000 in Scotland and 4,900,000 in Wales. The density estimates used in the current analysis are taken from Harris et al. (1995), so any differences are entirely owing to changes in the species’ distribution and land classification. Nationally, there are changes between the two reviews in the estimated availability of key habitats (arable land, broadleaved woodland, coniferous woodland and improved grassland), generated by a combination of true change and methodological differences, irrespective of any range change (see Sections 2.3 and 32.3 for further details).  Adjusting the results to reflect more probable temporal changes in the composition of the British landscape — using differences between the 1990 and 2007 Countryside Surveys (Carey et al., 2008) — generates a population size of 38,400,000, and a 23% increase in population size since 1995. However, a lack of confidence intervals means that it was not possible to assess whether the difference across time is significant.

 Mole signs have been recorded as part of the BTO Breeding Bird Survey since 1995. The number of 1km survey squares with signs of moles was 7% in 1995, 32% in 2003, and 18% in 2015. The extent to which differences between survey years reflects variation in recorder effort or true biological variation is not known. Nor is it possible to relate presence of signs to population estimates.

Population trends stable 


Range  stable. 

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