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water vole Water Voles

Identify It >   Mammal Section >   Water Voles >

Scientific name:  Arvicola terrestris

Size:  The water vole is the largest British vole, growing to around 30cm in length from head to end of tail.  The tail is about 10cm long

Distribution:  Declining in numbers but still found in England, Scotland and Wales

Months seen:  All year round

Life Span:  Up to two years, but frequently less than 6 months

Habitat:  Water voles live in burrows in the banks beside water ponds, lakes, canals and slow running streams and rivers

Food:  Plants and grasses which grow on, or near the water

Droppings:  Approx 10 to 12mm long, green in colour and rounded at the ends.  Odourless.

Special features:  Water voles are best known to English speaking children (and adults) as the famous 'Ratty' from the classic story 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame.  Although it is sometimes called the water rat, it has a much more rounded snout than a rat, smaller ears, and a shorter tail.

The fur is mostly dark brown in colour with some black hairs and a greyish coloured belly.  The males are slightly larger than the females.  Water voles have long claws which they use for digging their burrows, and the skin between the toes is webbed.  Water voles are mostly active during the daytime.

Water voles are the largest vole found in the UK, and one of the largest voles in the world.

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