What is it about?

A new method of studying for activity of a semi-aquatic mammal Russian desman Desmana moschata (Linnaeus, 1758) with use of digital portable voice recorders is developed. To identify the burrows in which the recorders were to be installed, the burrows were probed. A probe is a pole pointed at one end with a T-shaped handle at the other end. The researcher’s task was to detect the entrance to the burrow, usually under water. The direction of the underground passage is determined by means of the probe. For this purpose, the ground is pierced to detect the hollows in the burrow with the probe starting from the burrow entrance (the probe falls through unevenly). At a distance of 2 to 3 meters from the burrow, in some cases largely depending on the burrow length, the ground is dug up above the burrow in the form of a small well, 10 to 15 cm in diameter. A digital voice recorder was placed vertically in this well, so that the microphone was directed down towards the burrow. Desman noises can be characterized as short series formed as a sequence of contiguous short peaks of 15 to 25 seconds with five second interruptions formed by regular waves of breathing and its movement noises. As a rule, the noise audibility ranges from 1 to 3 minutes.

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Why is it important?

We aimed at identifying the current distribution of the species within the region and their populations status. In the course of expeditionary work on accounting for desmans in remote areas, we had the idea of checking whether the desman’s burrow is residential or non-residential. On the first (transparent) ice, finding out whether a burrow is inhabited or uninhabited is not difficult. However, clear ice is not always; moreover, it is problematic to have time to examine a large number of reservoirs in the short-term period of clear ice. Therefore, we have developed a technique that allows studying the desman’s activity in a hole and determining whether a burrow is inhabited or uninhabited in the ice-free period.


This article describes the method that can be used to study the activity of the Russian desman Desmana moschata, with potential implications on other semiaquatic species (e. g. beaver, muskrat, and others). The principle of this method is based on recording the noise of animals while they are moving along burrows.

Alexey Andreychev

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This page is a summary of: Activity of the Russian desman Desmana moschata (Talpidae, Insectivora) in its burrow, Therya, May 2020, Asociacion Mexicana de Mastozoologia,
DOI: 10.12933/therya-20-801.
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