Average lifespan: 0.5-1.5 years
When to seeJanuary to December
AboutThe water vole lives along rivers, streams and ditches, around ponds and lakes, and in marshes, reedbeds and areas of wet moorland. Look out for the signs of water voles, such as burrows in the riverbank, often with a nibbled 'lawn' of grass around the entrance.
Water voles like to sit and eat in the same place, so piles of nibbled grass and stems may be found by the water's edge, showing a distinctive 45 degree, angled-cut at the ends. 'Latrines' of rounded, cigar-shaped droppings may also be spotted. Water voles start to breed in spring, having three to four litters a year of up to five young.
How to identifyThe water vole has chestnut-brown fur, a blunt, rounded nose, small ears, and a furry tail. It is much bigger than other vole species. Scotland’s water voles often appear darker, with many having a black coat.
The similar brown rat is larger, with grey-brown fur, a pointed nose, large ears that protrude from its fur, and a long, scaly tail.
In our area
Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Water for Wildlife Project aims to make a major contribution towards the restoration and protection of wetland habitat and wildlife including water vole.
The Project has been running since 2003 and is funded by Anglian Water, Essex & Suffolk Water and the Environment Agency.
DistributionWidespread, but absent from the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly, Scottish islands, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Did you know?The water vole is famously known as 'Ratty' in Kenneth Grahame's classic children's tale, The Wind in the Willows. Despite being sometimes referred to as a 'Water Rat', there is no such thing - there are brown rats, black rats and water voles.
How people can help
The Wildlife Trusts are working hard to save the water vole by improving riverbank habitats and being involved in water vole reintroduction schemes. Volunteers are needed to help with everything from monitoring populations to riverbank restoration. So why not have a go at volunteering for your local Trust? You'll make new friends, learn new skills and help wildlife along the way.
Thousands of birds, insects and other animals across England are finding it harder and harder to survive. Can you help create a Wilder Future?