Water Vole

Water Vole

Llygoden Pengrwn y Dŵr. Arvicola amphibius 

In the last hundred years, 95% of our water voles have disappeared. Water voles can be found close to rivers, reed beds, streams, lakes and ponds, moorlands and even ditches. Although similar in size and appearance, water voles are not rats, but a large species of vole. Known colloquially as water rats or water dogs, they swim similarly to dogs, with their backs and heads visible above water. Water voles are a sociable species, living in large colonies in underground burrows with underwater entrances to escape from danger, and sometimes sharing nests during winter. A common sign of water vole activity is a pile of droppings, or latrines, that females use as boundary markers, as well as their entrance ways dotted along the riverbanks.

They breed from March to October, having 2-5 litters of 2-8 pups every year, born in underground nests woven from grasses and reeds. Most water voles do not survive for more than two winters, and they need to eat 80% of their body weight every day, including over winter as they do not hibernate. Their diet consists of grasses, sedges and rushes, supplemented with tree bark and fruit in the colder months, and, very rarely, insects.

For many people, water voles will forever be associated with wise and kindly Ratty from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s book The Wind in the Willows.

Status at Cambrian Wildwood: Absent at the moment.