Whilst it may resemble a rat (even being dubbed the “water rat” or “ratty”), the water vole has fur on its tail, paws and ears, and has a rounder nose than its distant cousin. The UK population has fallen from 8 million post-1960 to below 1 million in 1998, partly thanks to the introduction of the non-native American mink into British waterways.
Much bigger than other voles. Distinguished from the larger Brown Rat by its chestnut-brown fur, rounded nose, small, rounded ears that do not protrude from the fur and furry tail.
Length: 20cm plus a tail of 11cm Weight: 80-180g Average lifespan: 1.5 years
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Widespread, found everywhere except for the Channel Island, the Isles of Scilly, Scottish islands, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
When to see
Jan – Dec
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.