Moles are small, stocky little animals that spend most of their lives underground. They have black, velvety fur and a long, pink nose, tiny eyes, and spade-like paws to dig tunnels.
Many people think moles are rodents, but they belong to the mammalian order Eulipotyphla (previously Insectivora). Moles are predatory in nature and eat earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other animals found in the soil.
Moles dig continuously as they search for food and they can dig a tunnel 160 feet long in a single night. They are solitary creatures who only meet with other animals during the breeding season.
Females usually give birth during the summer to a litter of five young.
Although moles spend most of their time living underground, they are not blind. Their ears and eyes are usually so tiny that they aren’t visible.
Moles are around 4.4 to 6.25 inches long, and the American species is slightly bigger reaching 7 inches long.
Moles are often thought of as garden pests because of their complex tunnel systems, but they actually improve the soil by aerating it. Their tunnels help stop large puddles from forming on the ground and stop flooding.
Here are animals that share similarities with moles.
1. Common Vole
Scientific name: Microtus arvalis
Quick summary: A small rodent that looks and behaves like a mole.
Common voles are small rodents found across Europe. Like moles, they have short, stocky bodies and are around 4 to 6 inches in body length.
Voles have more prominent ears than a mole, and prominent orange teeth which they use for gnawing.
Just like moles, voles spend a lot of time underground in burrows and nests. They dig underground nests 11 to 15 inches deep into the ground where they sleep, store food and raise their young.
Unlike moles, voles prefer a diet of vegetation including stems, seeds, roots, and leaves of plants. On rare occasions, they will eat snails or small insects.
Sometimes voles will use tunnels already excavated by moles or other burrowing animals.
2. Common Shrew
Scientific name: Sorex araneus
Quick summary: A tiny, close relative of moles.
Shrews are tiny, furry animals that belong to the order Eulipotyphla, which also includes moles. Just like moles they mostly feed on invertebrates and insects.
Shrews look similar to moles with tiny eyes and a dense coat of fur, and a large nose which gives them a keen sense of smell.
Shrews are much smaller than moles, measuring only 2 to 4 inches in body length.
Unlike voles, these small animals hunt for insects above ground. However, they will sometimes hunt in tunnels already made by moles or voles.
Shrews may look cute, but they are aggressive for their size and very territorial. They can often be heard fighting in the summer, making high-pitched squeaks.
Scientific name: Erinaceinae
Quick summary: A spiky relative of moles.
Hedgehogs are short, stout mammals with a thick layer of spikes known as quills on their back. Even though they look quite different, hedgehogs are related to moles and shrews.
Like moles, hedgehogs are mammals in the order Eulipotyphla. They share a similar diet to moles, eating slugs, beetles, worms, millipedes, and other invertebrates.
Adult hedgehogs are much larger than moles and range in length from 9.5 to 14 inches. They have a long snout and a good sense of smell that helps them find their prey, just like moles.
Burrowing is a natural behavior of hedgehogs, although most hedgehogs prefer to build a nest. They will also use burrows made by rabbits and other animals.
4. Mole-like Rice Tenrec
Scientific name: Oryzorictes hova
Quick summary: A mole-like animal found only in Madagascar
Mole-like rice tenrecs look very similar to a mole, as their name suggests. Tenrecs are only found on the island of Madagascar.
These small animals have velvety, dark fur, very small eyes, and small ears like a mole. They are also a similar size to a mole, measuring between 5.7 to 7.5 inches long.
Mole-like rice tenrecs have a similar diet to moles, eating insects such as worms.
Although they spend some time above ground, these fascinating animals prefer to stay underground in burrows. They can also be found in rice fields.
Scientific name: Meles meles
Quick summary: A large member of the weasel family that loves to dig.
Badgers are stocky animals with short legs and distinctive black-and-white striped fur. They are a member of the weasel family which also included ferrets, polecats, and wolverines.
Badgers have powerful claws just like moles, which they use to dig underground setts and burrows. These incredible animals spend up to 70% of their time underground.
Like moles, badgers have an excellent sense of smell. A badger’s sense of smell is around 800 times sharper than a human’s.
Some badger setts are more than 100 years old and are used by multiple generations. Their underground tunnels can be up to 30 meters long.
Scientific name: Desmanini
Quick summary: Small semi-aquatic mammals with similarities to moles.
Desmans are small semi-aquatic animals of the order Eulipotyphla and are a subfamily of moles.
Although they are related to moles, they look for their prey underwater instead of burrowing through the ground.
Like moles, they have tiny eyes and no external ears. Their claws are sharp, long, and curved, but unlike a mole, they have webbed hind feet.
Desmans have soft, dense fur that is also water-repellent.
These fascinating animals make tunnels with an underwater entrance leading to a nest chamber above the water level.
7. Naked Mole Rat
Scientific name: Heterocephalus glaber
Quick summary: A hairless rodent with similarities to moles.
Naked mole rats are unusual-looking rodents with wrinkly pink skin found in eastern Africa. They live in underground burrows and tunnels similar to those of moles.
These remarkable animals are usually around 3 inches long and weigh 1-1.5 ounces.
Like moles, they have tiny eyes and poor eyesight. They have a good sense of smell, and are sensitive to the movement of air currents and vibrations in the ground.
Because they do not travel above ground, burrowing is the only way naked mole rats find food. Their tunnels can be up to 2 meters deep and the total tunnel length for a colony can be up to 2.5 miles.
Naked mole rats are the longest-living rodents, living up to 30 years old.
8. Ground Squirrel
Scientific name: Geosciurus inauris
Quick summary: A small squirrel that loves burrowing.
The South African ground squirrel is a type of rodent that loves to burrow. Just like moles, they build their homes by burrowing underground and are excellent at digging.
Ground squirrels sleep, store food and raise their young in their underground burrows. Each burrow opening is usually around 4 inches in diameter.
Moles and ground squirrels both enjoy a diet that includes insects and other small invertebrates. However, ground squirrels also eat a variety of fruits, grasses, herbs, and shrubs.
Scientific name: Solenodon paradoxus
Quick summary: A burrowing, venomous animal found in the Caribbean.
Solenodons are burrowing animals that make a complex network of tunnels underneath the soil. They are most like moles, hedgehogs, and shrews, and are members of the Eulipotyphla group.
These curious animals have dark fur and small eyes like moles, but look more like large shrews. They are surprisingly large, measuring 11 to 15 inches in length.
Both known species of solenodon are found in the Caribbean. One can be found on the island of Cuba and the other in Hispaniola.
Like moles, solenodons mostly eat insects and a variety of invertebrates, but will also eat mice and small reptiles.
Solenodons diverged from other mammals when dinosaurs roamed the earth 70 million years ago. These incredible creatures are one of only a few venomous mammals.
Scientific name: Echinosorex gymnura
Quick summary: A small, carnivorous animal with similarities to moles.
Despite its name, the moonrat is not a rodent. These unusual animals are most closely related to hedgehogs and are also related to moles, tenrecs, shrews, and solenodons.
They are larger than moles, with a body length of 13 to 16 inches.
Moonrats share a similar diet to moles, eating mostly insects, earthworms, and arthropods. They will occasionally also eat fruit, frogs, or fish.
Moonrats are found in South East Asia on the islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Labuan and on the Malayan Peninsula.
Like moles, moonrats spend time in burrows on the forest floor where they make their dens.
11. Water Vole
Scientific name: Arvicola amphibius
Quick summary: A semi-aquatic rodent that looks like a mole.
Water voles are semi-aquatic rodents that live along the banks of rivers and lakes throughout Europe.
These cute animals look similar to moles with their dark brown to black fur and short rounded ears. They are also a similar size to moles typically reaching 5.5 to 8.7 inches in length.
Water voles make burrows like moles, but usually next to slow-moving, calm water.
Moles and water voles have quite different diets, with moles eating mostly insects and worms and voles eating grass and vegetation.
12. Southern Marsupial Mole
Scientific name: Notoryctes typhlops
Quick summary: A mole-like marsupial found in Australia.
The Southern marsupial mole is a small marsupial found in Australia in the western central deserts.
Like moles, Southern marsupial moles are adapted to burrowing. They have silky fur and large, shovel-like paws. They also lack complete eyes as they spend most of their time underground.
These fascinating animals share a similar diet to moles and eat larvae and earthworms.
Despite their name, marsupial moles are not related to moles of the Eulipotyphla order. They are thought to have split from the marsupial family tree around 64 million years ago.
These incredible animals are one of the most rarely found species in Australia.
13. Eurasian Water Shrew
Scientific name: Neomys fodiens
Quick summary: A mole-like animal found along river banks in Europe and China.
Eurasian water shrews have silky, dark fur and long sharp claws which make them easy to mistake for a mole. They are relatively large for a shrew and not much smaller than moles at around 4 inches long.
Eurasian water shrews have webbed feet which help them swim in rivers and streams.
Like moles, these small animals eat plenty of invertebrates. They will also swim underwater to catch mayfly larvae and caddisflies.
Water shrews live in small burrows similar to moles, but usually on the banks of rivers or streams.
14. Myosorex (Forest Shrew)
Scientific Name: Myosorex varius
Quick Summary: A member of the mouse shrew family with excellent burrowing skills.
The forest shrew is a member of the mouse shrew family Soricidae found in Eswatini, Lesotho, and South Africa.
This small animal has dark fur, small eyes, and sharp claws similar to a mole.
Forest shrews are also excellent diggers like moles. They build burrows with complex passages and many entrances.
Forest shrews and moles share a very similar diet including insects and small invertebrates such as earthworms, centipedes, and spiders.
15. Prairie Vole
Scientific name: Microtus ochrogaster
Quick summary: A North American mammal with similarities to moles.
Prairie voles are small rodents found in North America with dark fur and small eyes similar to a mole.
They have a stocky, compact body and are a similar size to moles, growing to between 4.7 and 6.5 inches long.
Like moles, prairie voles are good diggers and live in burrows where they feel safe from predators. Their diet is different from that of moles and consists of grasses, fruits, bark, and roots, with some insects.
Prairie voles are also much more sociable than moles, and often live in colonies with other prairie voles.
16. Tundra Vole
Scientific name: Microtus oeconomus
Quick summary: A small rodent found in the Arctic tundra that looks similar to a mole.
The Tundra Vole is a small rodent that lives in the Arctic tundra of Europe, Asia, and North America. They are a similar size to an adult mole measuring around 7.1 inches long.
Tundra voles have short ears and small eyes similar to moles, but have a longer tail.
These cute animals are excellent diggers and forage for their food underground. Like moles, female tundra voles have their litters of young in a burrow.
Unlike moles, tundra voles mostly eat plants but will occasionally eat a grub or insect.
Although moles look like rodents, they are a member of the mammalian order Eulipotyphla. Other animals in this order include shrews and hedgehogs. These animals often behave like moles and share a similar diet of insects and small invertebrates.
Moles and shrews are very similar, but moles are much larger. Humans are much more likely to see a shrew than a mole, as moles spend hardly any time out of their tunnels.
Several rodents also look similar to moles and share their love of burrowing, including voles, ground squirrels, and the unusual naked mole rat.