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Happy Vole Watching!
Did you know we have water voles in the Iwade stream and that they are fully protected by law in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (amended 2008). So says Debbie McNamara our friendly Environment Agency contact. Click more to read what she has to say on the subject...

The Water Vole known as Ratty was once a popular character created by Kenneth Grahame in his classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows. Ratty was wrongly named and believed to be a rat, however from Grahame’s descriptions he was actually a water vole.

Water voles look very similar but have several distinct differences. They are slightly smaller, their tails are the same length as the body and furry whereas a rat has no fur on his tail. The muzzle is blunt and the ears are very small and hard to see whereas a rat has a pointed muzzle and easy to see ears.

Since the 1970s Water Vole populations have reduced by 95% and are verging extinction. The main causes are habitat fragmentation and habitat loss which is a product of urbanisation. Also poor water quality and an increase in predators.

This loss is one of the most rapid and serious recorded declines of any British wild mammal during recent times (as fast as the decline of the Black Rhino in East Africa). Because of this, water voles are now fully protected by law in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (amended 2008) and is a priority species with its own Biodiversity Action Plan.

Identification Clues
Water Voles eat young plants and shoots and leave distinct clues, you can often see little teeth marks in the vegetation where they have grazed.

They make lots of holes along the bank which are easily accessed by the water, and create a network of tunnels that travel back up to 2 metres. These tunnels are used as escape routes from predators. They create runs along the bank at the water's edge. These runs are good clues that they are present.

The best clue is their droppings. Look out for little piles of tic tac shape and size droppings. They are 8 to 12mm long and 4 to 5 mm thick and do not smell and often left on little mounds of mud or rocks and in small piles.

For more information please visit the Environment Agency website.