Belongs to: rodents

Compare with: bank vole
brown rat

Water vole Arvicola terrestris

Also known as: water rat

massive decline

Best time to see: all year

Key facts

'Ratty' from Wind in the Willows, but really a vole: as large as a rat with a long furry tail and blunt nose

Habitat: wetlands, meadows with tall dense vegetation for cover

Declining rapidly across most of Europe as a result of loss of habitat and predation by american mink


Chestnut brown, with a long furry tail and a blunt, whiskered nose; body 12–20cm, tail 8–13cm

Eats mainly grasses, often sitting at the water's edge eating; dives with a sharp plop if disturbed but easily seen if you wait quietly

Clears little 'gardens' in the bankside vegetation with piles of cut stems; leaves droppings about 1cm long outside its burrows


Makes a nest of grasses in underground burrows with neat round holes just above water level

3–4 litters a year from April to Sept; young are naked and helpless, maturing in about two months

Do not hibernate; life expectancy up to 4 years

  • Main photo

Photo © Ken King