The Mole’s Tunnel System – Garden Animals

The European mole is a small but important mammal native to many parts of Europe. The European mole’s appearance is characterized by its black fur and short, stocky limbs that are perfect for digging. It has small eyes and ears as it spends most of its life underground.

The mole is known for its ability to dig underground tunnels and burrows, making it a major player in our ecosystem. And who hasn’t seen them yet? The many mounds of earth in a meadow. They are evidence of a mole’s underground activities. Its stealthy way of life in this underground labyrinthine system also makes the mole a little scary for us.

Mole Hill


But what does the mole’s underground tunnel system look like? Why does the mole dig tunnels at all and how big can a tunnel system be?

Because the majority of the population knows so little about almost any other domestic mammal that is so widespread.

Therefore, in this article we would like to deal more with the mole and its tunnel system.

What does a mole’s tunnel system look like?

The mole’s tunnel system is a fascinating phenomenon in nature. It consists of a complex network of underground passages and chambers. These passages and chambers are usually circular and can be several meters below the surface.

The mole is a territorial loner that stays almost exclusively in its own building system, which it marks by smell and vehemently defends against its own species.

How big is a mole’s tunnel system?

The size of a mole’s tunnel system varies by species and individual behavior. Some species can have a small network of tunnels a few meters long, while other species can build a complex system several kilometers long.


In any case, the size of the tunnel system depends on the needs of the mole, including its search for food and protection from enemies. A mole that needs to cover a larger area for its foraging will likely have a larger tunnel system than a mole that lives in a smaller area.

However, it is difficult to determine the exact size of a tunnel system because it is underground and difficult to access. However, it is known that a single mole’s tunnel system can often be several kilometers long, with a depth of up to 3 meters below the surface of the earth.

Luc hoogenstein, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The tunnel system of the European mole (Talpa europaea) is rather small compared to other species. It can reach a length of up to 200 meters. However, it is usually only between 20 and 60 meters long.

The European mole’s tunnel system consists of a multitude of short, circular tunnels, usually 60 to 70 cm deep below the surface. These tunnels connect chambers where the mole gathers its prey to its nest and the above-ground areas where it forages.

Why do moles build tunnel systems?

The mole digs in the ground to protect itself from danger and to look for food. The tunnel system is unique to each mole, allowing it to move quickly and efficiently from one location to another without venturing to the surface.


In addition to protection from enemies like foxes and birds of prey the tunnels also serve as a connection to the surface areas where the mole searches for food. This food can be worms, insects and other small creatures that live in and on the ground.

Overall, the European mole’s tunnel system is an important part of its survival strategy, helping it protect itself from predators and forage effectively.

Here you can find out more about reproduction of moles.

How does the mole dig tunnels underground?

The mole digs tunnels by digging up dirt and other materials with its powerful front paws and claws. Its paws are particularly adapted to digging in the ground, allowing the mole to create tunnels and chambers quickly and efficiently.

Paw of a Mole Muséum de Toulouse, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During digging, the mole pushes the body forward while pulling the front paws back. He then throws the excavated earth out of the tunnel with a swift backward movement, throwing it toward his hind paws.

A mole’s tunnel system is constantly growing as the passages and chambers need to be constantly renewed to make them more convenient and practical. The mole also digs new tunnels to expand its territory and gain access to new food sources.

How are molehills formed?

Molehills are created by the burrowing of moles. When a mole digs dirt out of a tunnel, it throws it to the surface. These mounds are created where the mole pierces the ground to remove dirt and grass from the tunnel. The mounds can vary in size, depending on the size of the tunnel and the amount of earth excavated.

What time do moles dig?

Moles typically dig around the clock, regardless of day or night. They are day and nocturnal animals and dig whenever they need to forage or expand their tunneling system.


When does a mole stop digging?

A mole will not usually stop digging on its own, but will continue to dig until it dies or is forced to stop by other circumstances, such as disease or predators.

How old do moles get?

How often do moles come to the surface?

Moles rarely come to the surface as they spend most of their lives underground. It is therefore something very special when we discover a mole with our own eyes.

Mole on the surface Christoph Moning, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Normally, moles only come to the surface when they need to expand their burrow system or create a new burrow. In these cases, they may surface several times in a short period of time, but it is uncommon for them to remain on the surface for long periods of time.

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