Water Vole

Identification - Water voles are about 20cm in length (head & body) and are semi aquatic, that is they live on land and in water. It weighs about 200 - 350g. It has a rounded body, a blunt muzzle (face and nose) and small rounded ears nearly hidden in the thick fur around it head and neck. Its fur is reddish to dark brown. They have a furry tail about half the length of the body. They are more often heard with a characteristic 'plop' as they enter the water when disturbed. Brown rats can be mistaken for water voles - brown rats have more prominent ears, pointed face and a hairless, scaly tail.            Photo - Alan Williams

General ecology - the main habitats for water voles are banks of slow-flowing rivers, streams, ditches, lakes, ponds and dykes. They can occur in urban areas and tolerate habitats that are slightly polluted etc. They live in burrows just above the water line in banks. They are herbivores that eat a wide variety of waterside plants although in winter they will eat roots and bark and pregnant females will eat flowers, freshwater molluscs and crayfish for extra protein. Water voles are present on all the major river systems in Essex but numbers have declined at some sites and some sites are no longer occupied. Threats are from habitat loss, division of populations, water level fluctuation, predation (mink), pollution and poisoning.

Protection for water voles - The water vole gained protection against being killed, injured, or taken from the wild from 6 April 2008.  They join the list of wildlife species such as the otter and grass snake that already enjoy protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In addition, the possession or selling of the water vole also becomes an offence.

Surveying tips - field signs such as droppings are one of the best methods of surveying for water voles.

If you would like to help with an organised survey contact Mark Iley

Biodiversity Project work

Essex Biodiversity Project has worked on a grazing marsh site at Pitsea, re-profiling ditches and creating bunds to extend the area of available habitat for water voles.

EBP has assisted Darren Tansley, Water for Wildlife Officer in a Watervole translocation programme on the River Colne and a series of camera surveillance Otter surveys.

Surveys are carried out at intervals as part of the Water for Wildlife project work. For enquiries about
the Water for Wildlife Project please contact:-
Darren Tansley
Water for Wildlife Officer
Essex Wildlife Trust, Abbotts Hall Farm, Gt Wigborough, Essex, CO5 7RZ
Tel: 01621 862995
Mob/text: 07889 088453
Email: darrent@essexwt.org.uk