Russian Desman

South America


Desmana moschata


  • Habitat loss
  • Agricultural exploitation
  • Water pollution
  • Hunting
  • Death by getting trapped in submerged fishing nets

Though the Russian Desman may look like a rat, it is actually a mole. It is a semiaquatic mammal that inhabits small bodies of freshwater in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. It disappeared for a while in Ukraine but was reintroduced in the 1950s. It lives in burrows with up to five animals that may or may not be related to it. There is little information about its communication patterns and social system in this type of coexistence with other species.

Russian Desmans are capable of reproducing two moles every year. Because their burrows are found along the banks of lakes and rivers, they are omnivore feeders, living on a diet of insects, crayfish, and water-marsh vegetation. Like most moles, they are blind. To find its way around its environment, it uses its highly sensitive organs at the end of its snout called Eimer’s organs. They have webbed feet to help them steer through water.

The use of fixed fishing nets submerged all over its natural habitat has been a major cause for death and population decline. These desmans when caught will die within 5-10 minutes. Overfishing within the area has led to widespread loss of food sources. Water pollution and commercial activities in all freshwater regions as well as agricultural exploitation of flood plains are also threats to the existence of these desmans.