Water Vole sniffing the air © Tom Marshall

Water Vole

Arvicola amphibius

Key Facts

  • Length: 14-22cm
  • Weight: 150-300g
  • Average lifespan: 0.5-1.5 years
  • Conservation status: Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

    Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

    Water voles are listed as endangered on both the Great Britain and the England Red List for Mammals.
  • When to see: January to December

Water voles are a fascinating species that can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, such as rivers and streams, marshes, reedbeds, and even wet moorlands.

Having been lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent, water voles are a priority species under the UK post-2010 biodiversity framework. They are listed as endangered on both Great Britain’s and England’s Red List for Mammals.

How to identify

The water vole boasts a chestnut-brown coat, a blunt, rounded nose, small ears, and a furry tail, making it much larger than other vole species.

To spot a water vole, look out for burrows in the riverbank, often with a nibbled lawn of grass around the entrance. Additionally, piles of grass and stems with a distinctive 45-degree angled-cut at the ends may be found near the water’s edge, as water voles like to sit and eat in the same place.

Finally, ‘latrines’ of rounded, cigar-shaped droppings may also be spotted. In the spring, water voles begin to breed, producing up to five young in three to four litters per year.


Did you know?

‘Ratty’, the character in Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s tale “The Wind in the Willows”, is a representation of a water vole.

The astute, charming, and affable Ratty has a deep affinity for the river and a strong bond with his friend Mole. Though he can be quite unsettled by matters outside of his preferred routine, he is unwaveringly loyal and always does the right thing when necessary.

Ratty is a free spirit and a dreamer, with a poetic thought process that allows him to find deeper meaning, beauty, and intensity in situations that others may view more practically.

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