Belongs to: rodents

Compare with: brown rat
bank vole

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

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


Makes a nest of grasses in underground burrows with neat round holes, up to 8cm across, just above water level

Clears little 'gardens' in the bankside vegetation with piles of cut stems cut at 45 angle

Leaves droppings about 1cm long outside its burrows, rounded at each end, green or brown, left in obvious piles

  • photo

© Ken King