Fun Russian Desman Facts For Kids

Ritwik Bhuyan
May 03, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Ambuj Tripathi
Russian Desman facts about an endangered species, often mistaken for the rodent, Muskrat.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.1 Min

The Russian Desman, Desmana moschata, is a mammal and a semi-aquatic species. The Desmanini tribe currently has only two surviving species under them, the Russian Desman and the Pyrenean Desman.

Despite having quite a similarity with the rodent species of the Muskrat of North America, the Russian Desman is part of the mole family named Talpidae.

Moles are always blind and only get their sensory inputs from the touch-sensitive Eimar's organs, which are present at the end of the long snout. This slow-moving, semi-aquatic, endangered mole, the Russian Desman is no different than the other members of the mole family of the genus Desmana.

The hind feet of this species of animals are webbed and the tails are flattened laterally for the fulfillment of the Russian Desman swimming criteria, which makes them a mole of aquatic habitat. The tail of the species also has scent glands.

These moles are also nocturnal and the group of this species is known to live in nests with unrelated individuals. This group of mammals usually inhabits only aquatic habitats and is largely a territorial group.

This group of species is often related to other rodents but is not a part of this family of rodents. Rodents such as agouti and water vole are non-related to the endangered species called Russian Desman. Read on to know the differences!

Russian Desman Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Russian Desman?

The Russian Desman is a species of moles that are now endangered.

What class of animal does a Russian Desman belong to?

The Russian Desman, Desmana moschata, falls under the class of Mammalia in the kingdom of Animalia.

How many Russian Desmans are there in the world?

In 2004, references from various articles estimated that there are under 35,000 of these species left. But in some parts of Russia, the numbers are said to be growing now.

Where does a Russian Desman live?

The Russian Desman is endemic to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and southwestern Russia. They are found on the basins of the Don, Ural, and Volga rivers. This endangered species is found on the banks of ponds and streams, where the animals make burrows.

The Pyrenean Desman, the other member of the group of moles, is found in Western Europe.

According to references, the population in Russia is somewhat getting better, but the conditions of Ukraine and Kazakhstan are the same and declining.

What is a Russian Desman's habitat?

These species found always in a group, inhabit freshwater, slow-moving streams, lakes, rivers, and ponds. They are also found in river basins.

Found usually in holes along lakes and river basins, they prefer water bodies with rich water-marsh vegetation, bushes, and primary forests along the water banks. Entrances for their burrows lead from their range of nests on the ground to below water.

Who do Russian Desmans live with?

The Russian Desman was found living in a small group of two to five moles. The social system and the communication techniques between animals are said to be complex. These complex systems have not been studied much and the references are unavailable.

How long does a Russian Desman live?

The Russian Desman appears to survive for only three years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

The gestation period of the species lasts for 40-50 days and a litter size of two to five young are born twice a year. The mating season is between summer and fall. Sexual maturity is reached at 12 months by the females.

What is their conservation status?

At first, the Desmans were found in abundance in the world. In all the range of regions they were naturally found, the endangered Russian Desman was endemic to Russia and reproduced freely, growing in abundance, which was estimated to be around 70,000 in the 1970s.

But now, the population of the species named Russian Desman, Desmana Moschata, is decreasing at a rapid pace, and the conservation status of these animals is kept at Endangered. The population of this species left is protected by law.

Russian Desman Fun Facts

What do Russian Desmans look like?

With many links to the muskrat species which are said to be related in a lot of ways and also appear similar to the Russian Desman, Desmana moschata, this species is said to be the largest mole present in the world. The endangered species has a long, grooved snout, which is flexible.

They also have a scaly, flattened tail that is wide at the base. The body is cylindrical and is covered with thick, waterproof double fur.

The external coat has stiff, long hairs and the soft undercoat has short, dense hairs. The waterproof fur of the animal is colored reddish-brown and the belly is gray-colored.

The tail is used as a paddle in the water. The hind feet are completely webbed while the front feet appear to be partially webbed to move around the water.

Eyes are present, but they use sensory information from their environment with the help of the touch-sensitive organ located on the snout. It appears that these animals use their snouts to probe the bottom of their aquatic habitats in search of food.

Russian Desmans look similar to Muskrats.

*Please note this is an image of a muskrat, often linked to the Russian Desman. If you have an image of a Russian Desman, let us know at

How cute are they?

They are quite a big mole species and are beautiful in their own right.

How do they communicate?

They usually use sounds for communication. More research on these creatures is unavailable, but they are said to live in an organized society.

How big is a Russian Desman?

The Russian Desman has a body length of 7.1-8.3 in (18-21 cm). The length of the tail ranges from 6.7-7.9 in (17-20 cm).

How fast can a Russian Desman move?

These animals only move when the water height changes and the speed is currently unknown. Commonly, moles are pretty quick and can dig 100-150 ft in a day.

How much does a Russian Desman weigh?

The weight of the Russian Desman ranges from 0.88-1.14 lb (400-520 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males and females are not given different names.

What would you call a baby Russian Desman?

A baby of this species is called a young.

What do they eat?

These omnivore mammals eat at least 72 types of invertebrates and almost 30 different plant species. Commonly, they are found feeding on fish, plants, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, and insects.

Are they poisonous?

They are not at all poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

Due to their requirement for natural habitats and decreasing numbers, Russian Desmans are not considered pets. They are often, unfortunately, caught for fur trading.

Did you know...

The Russian Desman are very territorial and these animals possess some glands in their tail which produce a musky smell to mark their territory.

Are Russian Desmans Endangered?

The Russian Desman fur is rich and thick, which made them a target for the fur trade. This killing and hunting of the species of the group of Desmans, made the Russian government declare this group a protected species.

Loss of habitats, water pollution, and illegal fishing nets added to the Endangered status of these mammals.

These nets are so dangerous for these endangered species as the moles cannot even survive five minutes if trapped in one. The introduction of the non-native species of the Muskrats family is also primarily responsible for the decline of the population, which was estimated to be only 35,000 in 2004.

What eats the Russian Desman?

Minks and Muskrats are disastrous for Russian Desmans. They were introduced in the same habitats, where the Minks killed a lot of the moles and the Muskrats drove them away from their homes.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our porcupine fun facts and muskrat surprising facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Russian desman coloring pages.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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Fact-checked by Ambuj Tripathi

Bachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ambuj Tripathi picture

Ambuj TripathiBachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ambuj is a skilled fact checker with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University. He has been recognized for his exceptional content writing skills, having won a CineMedia competition. In addition to his writing abilities, he also has a flair for design.

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