The mole in winter

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  • The mole in winter
    13.12.2010 15:05

    One advantage of this freezing weather is that proud gardeners can for a while cease fretting about the threat of molehills erupting across their carefully nurtured lawns.

    Moles do not hibernate, though, storing neither food nor fat reserves. In fact, there are only three mammals in the UK that do hibernate: the dormouse, the hedgehog and all 17 species of bat.

    In each of these creatures the body temperature can drop to within a few degrees of freezing while heart rates fall to just 20 beats per minute. Respiration rates drop dramatically as well, and the hedgehog can take just one breath every few minutes.

    The mole does not enjoy this advantage and has to keep feeding throughout the depth of winter. It might appear that it has entered a state of torpor because of the lack of visible activity but it has simply tunnelled deeper to dig below the frost and to follow its favourite foodstuff – the earthworm - which also burrows to greater depths during the winter and curls into a mucus-covered ball at the end of a deep tunnel.

    This state is not hibernation either. Occasionally during the winter, when temperatures rise for a while, they will brave a visit to the surface – perhaps escaping the neighbourhood mole but presenting a irresistible snack to a peckish bird.

    By: Stephen Davenport