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A water vole feeding in ideal habitat at Ninesprings Country Park! (Credit: Barbie Markey)



  • A member of the rodent family (but does not get on with rats!).

  • Food – largely vegetarian, loves grasses, reeds and flowers like meadow sweet.

  • Home – burrows into river/stream banks; prefers running water but will live in still water bodies with suitable banks and vegetation cover.

  • Territories – mainly linear and between 25m -250m long depending on food availability.

  • Breeding – April – September, may have up to 5 litters a year with average 6 young which leave the nest from age 22 days onwards.

  • Habitat – densely vegetated banks along watercourses, marshes, large ponds, etc., which provide adequate food supplies and cover from their many predators but is not shaded out by dense woodland canopy.

  • Enemies – large fish (e.g. pike), birds of prey (e.g. marsh harrier), mink, heron, otter.

  • Population – has declined significantly in recent years and continues to be at risk. Main cause of decline is habitat loss and fragmentation.


Water vole make a very distinctive “plop” when they enter the water and escape from threats by instantly diving into deep water and only surfacing when they are many metres away from where they entered. Rats do not make a noise and do not dive.