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Water VoleWater Voles

The Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius) or The Wind in the Willow's water rat is the largest of our native voles, weighing up to 350g, with a rounded body, blunt muzzle and short round ears.


They are found along densely vegetated banks of slow flowing rivers, ditches, lakes and marshes where water is present throughout the year.


Location: Cosmeston Lakes Country Park


There are certain signs that you can look for if you’re walking along a riverbank:

  • Burrows - an entrance hole wider than it is high (4-8cm) with no spoil left around it
  • Feeding stations – a neat pile of chewed vegetation (grasses and reeds) with 45o cuts at the ends
  • Droppings – 8-12mm long and 4-5mm wide with round blunt ends left in latrines (a flattened mat of old droppings with fresh ones on top)

The most distinctive sign is a loud plop as the water vole dives into the water – this plop acts as a warning to the other water voles in the area.


Water Vole survey

Causes of Decline

Factors, which have contributed to the decline in water vole populations, include habitat loss and degradation, inappropriate water management and the non-native American mink. Since their introductions into the UK, this mink species has had a severe impact on the water vole populations and in some areas causing extinctions.


Water Voles are listed as UK BAP priority species although they have limited protection through British legislation and only their habitats are protected.