The water vole is a small mammal that lives alongside rivers, streams, ditches, ponds, lakes, marshes, reed beds and wet moorland.
Sometimes mistaken for the brown rat, they are the largest type of vole, growing to about 20cm long. Water voles use burrows, a bit like smugglers’ tunnels, in the banks of waterways with both overground and underwater entrances for a secure escape route from threats.
They eat up to 227 different types of plants, mostly grass and waterside vegetation, and consume 80 percent of their body weight each day. Their average life expectancy is only around five months although some can live for up to two years.
Find out more about water voles on the Wildlife Trusts website.
Where to see one
You can spot water voles in the watercourses around the industrial areas of Avonmouth and Severnside and at Lawrence Weston Community Farm.
Look for a ‘lawn’ of closely chopped grass, which marks the entrance to their burrows.
Protecting the Water Vole
Sadly, the water vole is Britain’s fastest declining wild mammal and has disappeared from many parts of the UK, due to a loss of suitable habitats and predators such as the introduced American mink.
A Forgotten Landscape worked to safeguard these rare creatures and ensure they remain in the area for generations to come via our Water Vole Monitoring and Habitat Restoration Project.
Did You Know?
‘Ratty’ in Wind in the Willows was actually a water vole, not a rat.