European water vole

The European water vole or northern water vole (Arvicola amphibius, included in synonymy: A. terrestris), is a semiaquatic rodent. It is often informally called the water rat, though it only superficially resembles a true rat.[3] Water voles have rounder noses than rats, deep brown fur, chubby faces and short fuzzy ears; unlike rats their tails, paws and ears are covered with hair.

In the wild, on average, water voles only live about five months. Maximum longevity in captivity is two and a half years.[4]

European water vole
Water Vole on Boot Hill (5592665124)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Cricetidae
Subfamily: Arvicolinae
Genus: Arvicola
A. amphibius
Binomial name
Arvicola amphibius

Arvicola terrestris (Linnaeus, 1758)
Mus amphibius Linnaeus, 1758
Mus terrestris Linnaeus, 1758


Water voles reach 14–22 centimetres (5.5–8.7 in) in length, plus a tail which is about half the length of the body. Weights reported for adults are variable. It is possible for large, optimal adults to weigh as much as 225 to 386 g (7.9 to 13.6 oz)[5] However, these are peak weights. Elsewhere the mean body mass has been reported as 60 to 140 g (2.1 to 4.9 oz), although this figure includes immature water voles.[6] The minimum weight to successfully breed as well as to survive winter is reportedly 112 g (4.0 oz) in females and 115 g (4.1 oz) in males.[7] As a species the mean body mass is claimed as 140 g (4.9 oz).[8]

Overall, European water voles are a uniform dark brown colour, with slightly paler coloration on the underside. Their pelage is quite thick and they are furred over their entire body, including their tail, unlike rats. Their dark colour allows them to blend in well in the densely vegetated areas they inhabit.[9]


The binomial applied to the water vole is Arvicola amphibius, it was formerly known by the junior synonym A. terrestris. The confusion stems from the fact that Linnaeus described two species of water vole on the same page of the same work. Those two forms are now universally considered the same species. It has been recognized as A. amphibius (Linnaeus, 1758) because the first source to unite the two forms, which Linnaeus had treated separately, into a single species chose A. amphibius as the valid name.[2] The species is widely known by the synonym A. terrestris which for many decades was treated as the valid name.

Some authorities consider the southwestern water vole (Arvicola sapidus) to be the same species, but this is now generally considered distinct.[1][10]


The water vole Arvicola amphibius is found in most of Europe, Russia, West Asia and Kazakhstan.[1]


Arvicola terrestris
Water vole, Ore Mountains, Germany

In Britain, water voles live in burrows excavated within the banks of rivers, ditches, ponds, and streams. Burrows are normally located adjacent to slow moving, calm water which they seem to prefer. They also live in reed beds where they will weave ball shaped nests above ground if no suitable banks exist in which to burrow.

Water voles prefer lush riparian vegetation which provides important cover to conceal animals when they are above ground adjacent to the water body. Areas of heavily grazed and trampled riparian habitats are generally avoided.[11] Water voles may be displaced by the introduction of riparian woodland and scrub as they prefer more open wetland habitats away from tree cover.

As well as frequenting typical lowland wetland habitats dominated by rank marginal aquatic vegetation, water voles are also just as at home in areas upland 'peatland' vegetation where they utilize suitable small ditches, rivers, and lochs surrounded by moorland up to 1000 m asl (e.g. northern Scotland).[12]

In Europe and Russia, they may venture into woods, fields, and gardens. They live under the snow during the winter.

Water voles are currently being reintroduced as a threatened species in Yorkshire, England. In the Massif Central area of France, however, farmers are campaigning for action to be taken against water voles, where plagues of these rodents are causing major damage to crops.


Water vole eating

Water voles mainly eat grass and other vegetation near the water, but will also consume fruits, bulbs, twigs, buds, and roots when given the opportunity. In Europe, rich harvest periods can cause water vole "plagues" to take place, during which the voles eat ravenously, destroying entire fields of grass and leaving the fields full of burrows. Water voles in some parts of England have been shown to occasionally prey on frogs and tadpoles; it has been speculated that this is to make up for a protein deficiency in the voles' diet.[13]

Food remains alone are not a reliable indicator of the presence of this species, as other smaller voles can also leave remains of large grasses and rushes.[14]


The mating period lasts from March into late autumn. The female vole's pregnancy lasts for approximately 21 days. Up to 8 baby voles can be born, each weighing around 10 grams (0.4 oz). The young voles open their eyes three days after their birth. They are half the size of a full grown water vole by the time they are weaned.


Water voles are expert swimmers and divers. They do not usually live in large groups. Adult water voles each have their own territories, which they mark with fecal latrines located either near the nest, burrow and favoured water's edge platforms where voles leave or enter the water.[12] Latrines are known to be a good survey indicator of this species, and can be used to gauge abundance of animals.[15] They also scent-mark by using a secretion from their bodies (a flank gland), although this is not normally detectable during a field survey. They may attack if their territory is invaded by another water vole.


As a large and common microtine rodent, the range of predators faced by the European water vole is extensive. However, many species of predator prefer other rodents, such as Microtus voles and wood mice, due to their greater numerical abundance.[7] Wildcats, red foxes, most species of hawk (especially common buzzards), owl (especially the barn owl, genus Strix, and Eurasian eagle-owl) and falcon (in large numbers by the common kestrel) in their range are among their reported predators. A very large number are also taken by mustelids. Reportedly small Mustela weasels as well as European and introduced American mink may take the largest number of water voles of any predator due in part to aligning habitat preferences.[7][16] The rarely checked invasive population of American mink has reportedly caused a decline of water voles in Britain.[17]


United Kingdom

The water vole population in the UK has fallen from its estimated pre-1960 level of around 8 million to 2.3 million in 1990 and to 354,000 (other source: 750,000) in 1998. This represents a 90–95% loss. It is still declining dramatically: the most recent estimate for 2004 is around 220,000. This decline is partly attributed to the American mink, an aggressive predator of the vole, together with unsympathetic farming and watercourse management which destroyed parts of the water vole's habitat.

On 26 February 2008, the UK Government announced full legal protection for water voles would be introduced from 6 April 2008.[18] This makes it an offence to disturb, damage or obstruct their breeding places.

The water vole is the UK's fastest declining mammal and efforts are under way to protect it and its habitat from further destruction. One aspect of water vole conservation in the UK is focused on non-linear habitats such as reed bed which support extensive networks or metapopulations. Other areas supporting healthy populations of water voles are large conurbations such as Birmingham and London and some upland areas where American mink are scarce. Across the UK the Wildlife Trusts and other organisations are undertaking many practical projects to conserve and restore water vole populations.

Water voles have recently returned to Lindow Common nature reserve in Cheshire, UK, after many years of absence.[19] The reserve rangers credit this to conservation management, which included thinning of woodland.

Wetlands West (formerly the Severn and Avon Vales Wetlands Partnership) reports on work done as part of the Water Vole Recovery Project in the Berkeley Vale.[20] In Gloucestershire a new nature reserve for water voles was created in 2009/2010 at Nind (a former trout farm).

Glasgow has recently been identified as a stronghold for water voles, including a distinct population of 'fossorial' water voles, which have been reported as inhabiting brownfield sites, road verges and urban parks.

The European Otter has been known to actively attack mink preying upon water vole.There are also indications that the water vole is increasing in numbers in UK areas where the European otter has made a return.[21]

National Water Vole Monitoring Programme (NWVMP)

In 2015 People's Trust for Endangered Species launched a new project to try and coordinate conservation efforts for the water vole in the UK. The National Water Vole Monitoring Programme (NWVMP) is the first ongoing monitoring scheme for this species in the UK and aims to bring together data from several hundred sites to allow the status of this animal to be assessed year-on-year.[22]

Literary appearances

A water vole named "Ratty" is a leading character in the 1908 children's book Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: the locality used in the book is believed to be Moor Copse in Berkshire, England, and the character's name "Ratty" has become widely associated with the species and their riverbank habitat, as well as the misconception that they are a species of rat.[23][24]

In the comic novel and film Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, one of the characters, Urk, refers to the subject of his unrequited love, Elfine Starkadder, as his little water vole. Throughout the story, Urk spends a lot of time talking to the water voles on the farm.

C. S. Calverley a 19th-century writer of (among other things) light verse, in his poem "Shelter," beginning:

By the wide lake's margin I mark'd her lie--

The wide, weird lake where the alders sigh--

Tells of an apparently shy, easily frightened young female by a lakeside, who in the last line of the poem, it's revealed that:

For she was a water-rat.


  1. ^ a b c Amori (1996). "Arvicola terrestris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 May 2006.
  2. ^ a b Musser, G.G.; Carleton, M.D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 894–1531. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  3. ^ Freeston, Helen (1997). "Tales of the Riverbank—How to spot 'Ratty' (previously "Water Volewatch 97")". Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. Archived from the original on September 25, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-23.
  4. ^ "The Mammal Society". Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  5. ^ Forder, V. "Ecology and Conservation of the Water Vole Arvicola terrestris amphibius" (PDF). Wildwood Trust. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-02-12.
  6. ^ Saucy, F. (1994). Density dependence in time series of the fossorial form of the water vole, Arvicola terrestris. Oikos, 381-392.
  7. ^ a b c Yavuz, Güliz, Ercüment Çolak, and Teoman Kankılıç. Investigations on the Ecology of Eurasian Water Vole, Arvicola amphibius (Rodentia: Mammalia) in Ankara Province. Pakistan Journal of Zoology 45.6 (2013): 1599-1605.
  8. ^ Morand, S., & Poulin, R. (1998). Density, body mass and parasite species richness of terrestrial mammals. Evolutionary Ecology, 12(6), 717-727.
  9. ^ Niethammer, J. 1990. Water Voles (Genus *Arvicola*). Pp. 242-245 in S Parker, ed. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Volume III. NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.
  10. ^ Amori (1996). "Arvicola sapidus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 23 August 2006.
  11. ^ Strachan, R. and Moorhouse, T. (2006). Water Vole Conservation Handbook (2nd edition). Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford.
  12. ^ a b Harris, S. and Yalden, D.W. (2008). Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th Edition. The Mammal Society.
  13. ^ "Water voles get a taste for frogs". BBC News. 30 April 2010.
  14. ^ Ryland, K. and Kemp, B (2009). "Using field signs to identify water voles - are we getting it wrong?", In Practice, Bulletin of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. 63, March 2009 (pp. 23-25).
  15. ^ Strachan, R. and Moorhouse, T. (2006). Water Vole Conservation Handbook (2nd edition). Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford.
  16. ^ Macdonald, D. W., Sidorovich, V. E., Anisomova, E. I., Sidorovich, N. V., & Johnson, P. J. (2002). The impact of American mink Mustela vison and European mink Mustela lutreola on water voles Arvicola terrestris in Belarus. Ecography, 25(3), 295-302.
  17. ^ Jefferies, D. J., Morris, P. A., & Mulleneux, J. E. (1989). An enquiry into the changing status of the water vole Arvicola terrestris in Britain. Mammal Review, 19(3), 111-131.
  18. ^ Macclesfield Borough Council's "Countryside and Ranger Service". "News from Lindow". Archived from the original on 2007-01-18. Retrieved 2006-08-23.
  19. ^ "Berkeley Vale Water Vole Recovery Project (2007-2010)", Wetlands West Annual Report 2009/10, Appendix E" (PDF). Wetlands West. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-25. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  20. ^ "Otters 'prompt vole resurgence'". BBC. 2006-09-10. Retrieved 2006-09-11.
  21. ^ "PTES website for the National Water Vole Monitoring Programme". PTES. Retrieved 2015-05-09.
  22. ^ "RSPB". RSPB. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  23. ^ Water Voles: The Return of Ratty (2009-01-21). "BBC Devon". Retrieved 2013-02-26.

External links

A. terrestris

A. terrestris may refer to:

Actinochloris terrestris, an alga species

Arvicola terrestris, the European Water Vole, a mammal species


Blanfordimys is a genus of rodent in the family Cricetidae.

It contains the following species:

Afghan Vole (Blanfordimys afghanus)

Bucharian Vole (Blanfordimys bucharicus)


Caryomys is a genus of rodent in the family Cricetidae.


Chionomys is a genus of rodent in the family Cricetidae.

It contains the following species:

Caucasian snow vole (Chionomys gud)

European snow vole (Chionomys nivalis)

Robert's snow vole (Chionomys roberti)


Eolagurus is a genus of rodent in the family Cricetidae.

It contains the following species:

Yellow steppe lemming (Eolagurus luteus)

Przewalski's steppe lemming (Eolagurus przewalskii)

Het Groene Woud

Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest) is a special area of the Netherlands which is located in North Brabant between the cities of Tilburg, Eindhoven and 's-Hertogenbosch. It includes nature reserves such as the Kampina, the Oisterwijk forests and fens, Velderbos and the Dommel.

In 2004 "Het Groene Woud" is designated by the government as a National Landscape. This is to prevent the area between the three large cities from becoming more urbanized.

The combination of nature, sustainable agriculture and environmental recreation form a valuable cultural and historical landscape. "Het Groene Woud" covers a total of 7,500 hectares of marshes, meadows and agricultural landscape. It covers the municipalities Boxtel, Sint-Oedenrode, Schijndel, Sint-Michielsgestel, Best, Oirschot, Oisterwijk, Haaren and Vught.

In Het Groene Woud, many species of mammals can be encountered:

These include: roe deer, European badger, Eurasian harvest mouse, European polecat, European water vole, European hedgehog, Eurasian red squirrel, common pipistrelle, European hare, brown long-eared bat, stoat, serotine bat, European mole, Natterer's bat, least weasel, red fox, Daubenton's bat, beech marten and several species of shrew, dormice, apodemus and arvicolinae.

In the near future will possibly red deers be re-introduced in the area.

Hiking, canoeing and cycling activities are possible in this area.


Hyperacrius is a genus of rodent in the family Cricetidae.

It contains the following species:

True's vole (Hyperacrius fertilis)

Murree vole (Hyperacrius wynnei)


Lasiopodomys is a genus of rodent in the family Cricetidae.

It contains the following species:

Brandt's vole (Lasiopodomys brandtii)

Plateau vole (Lasiopodomys fuscus)

Mandarin vole (Lasiopodomys mandarinus)


Mynomes is a North American subgenus of voles in the genus Microtus. Species in this subgenus are:

Beach vole, M. breweri

Gray-tailed vole, M. canicaudus

Montane vole, M. montanus

Creeping vole, M. oregoni

Meadow vole, M. pennsylvanicus

Townsend's vole, M. townsendii

Paradox vole

The paradox vole (Microtus paradoxus) is a species of rodent in the family Cricetidae found in southern Turkmenistan.

People's Trust for Endangered Species

Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is a charitable organisation registered in England and Wales. It exists to promote the conservation of rare or declining species and habitats in the UK and worldwide through monitoring, public engagement, education, and through the funding of conservation projects and research. It also owns and manages two nature reserves. As of April 2015, PTES has 16 employees, five trustees and coordinates around 24,000 volunteers in the UK. PTES relies on donations from the general public and grants from trusts and foundations to continue its work - it receives no core funding from the UK Government. The organisation has registered charity number 274206.


Pitymys is a subgenus of voles in the genus Microtus. Species in this subgenus are:

Guatemalan vole (Microtus guatemalensis)

Tarabundí vole (Microtus oaxacensis)

Woodland vole (Microtus pinetorum)

Jalapan pine vole (Microtus quasiater)

Stanford End Mill and River Loddon

Stanford End Mill and River Loddon is an area of natural grassland, between Beech Hill and Swallowfield in Berkshire, incorporating a stretch of the River Loddon and a mill built in early Victorian times on the Stratfield Saye estate. It was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1952, and expanded in 1986. The site is of interest mainly because of two rare plants: the fritillary (Fritillary meleagris), a native bulb, and the Loddon pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus), a rare aquatic plant. The area supports a wide range of native meadow plants, and the river supports a variety of coarse fish species, water voles and nesting birds, including little grebe, moorhen, coot, mute swan and kingfisher.

Swallowfield Meadow

Swallowfield Meadow is a local nature reserve within the village of Swallowfield, Berkshire, England. The nature reserve is owned and managed by Swallowfield Parish Council.


Terrestris, terrestrial in Latin, is a species name present in a number of species Latin names:

Actinochloris terrestris, an alga species

Arvicola terrestris, the European water vole, a rodent species

Blepharospora terrestris, a plant pathogen species

Bombus terrestris, a bumblebee species

Brodiaea terrestris, a plant species

Bufo terrestris, a toad species

Callitriche terrestris, a plant species

Chiropterotriton terrestris, a salamander species

Clubiona terrestris, a sac spider species found in Europe

Coelotes terrestris, a tangled nest spider species in the genus Coelotes

Ettlia terrestris, an algae species

Euophrys terrestris, a jumping spider species

Euptychia terrestris, a butterfly species in the genus Euptychia

Gymnopilus terrestris, a species of mushroom in the family Cortinariaceae

Lumbricus terrestris, a worm species

Lycosa terrestris, a spider species in the genus Lycosa

Lysimachia terrestris, a plant species

Moggridgea terrestris, a spider species

Muriella terrestris, an alga species in the genus Muriella

Mycoleptodiscus terrestris, a plant pathogen species

Nayalia terrestris, an alga species

Neochloris terrestris, an alga species

Notosuchus terrestris, an extinct crocodile species

Oreophryne terrestris, a species of frog in the family Microhylidae endemic to Papua New Guinea

Pedilochilus terrestris, an orchid species in the genus Pedilochilus

Phaeotrichoconis terrestris, a plant pathogen species

Phyllastrephus terrestris, a songbird species

Phytophthora terrestris, a water mould species

Pseudotetracystis terrestris, an alga species in the genus Pseudotetracystis

Pyrenochaeta terrestris, a fungal plant pathogen species

Scotiellopsis terrestris, an alga species

Skvortzoviothrix terrestris, an alga species

Tapirus terrestris, a mammal species

Testudo terrestris, a tortoise species in the genus Testudo

Tribulus terrestris, a plant species

Trox terrestris, a beetle species

Trugon terrestris, a bird species

Warcupia terrestris, a species of fungi, the sole species in the genus Warcupia

Zizania terrestris, a wild rice species

Zoothera terrestris, an extinct bird species

Vincent Wildlife Trust

Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) was founded in 1975 by the late Honourable Vincent Weir. It is a charity that focuses on mammal conservation in Britain and Ireland. Its Head Office is in Herefordshire, with local offices in south-west England, Wales and Ireland.


Volemys is a small genus of rodents in the family Cricetidae.

It contains the following species:

Szechuan vole (Volemys millicens)

Marie's vole (Volemys musseri)Both members of this genus are endemic to China.

Vresselse Bossen

East of the village Nijnsel and Hamlet Vressel, Sint-Oedenrode, North-Brabant, Netherlands is the location of the Vresselse bossen or Vresselsche Bosch (Vressels Forest).

The Vresselse Bossen is a forest area of 241 ha. It is owned and managed by the National Forest Service (Staatsbosbeheer).

The forest is named after the nearby hamlet Vressel.

It is a young forest that is planted in a drift-sand ridge.

At the beginning of the 20th century there was scarcely a tree in the area. The area consisted mainly of sand dunes and heathland.

At the edges of the area lived farmers who were severely affected by the shifting sands. To protect the fields was therefore decided to reforest the drift-sand. At that time, almost exclusively pine was used for the reforesting. In the twenties of the 20th century it had become a production forest consisting of Scots pine for the Limburgian mines.

Within the area there are two main fen systems: The Hazenputten and the Oude Putten. Rare vegetation is mainly found around the fens: among others White beak-sedge and bog asphodel can be found here.

The contemporary management by Staatsbosbeheer focuses on getting a more varied forest composition, including native oak, linden and beech. To prevent the Hazenputten from drying, competing vegetation is removed around the pools.

The area around the marshes has been grazed by Highland cattle and Exmoor horses in the past.

The area has a rich bird population. Breeding birds are: yellowhammer, kingfisher, black woodpecker, northern goshawk, little grebe, European green woodpecker, common buzzard, great egret, long-eared owl, coal tit, little owl, barn owl and crested tit.

Also many species of mammals can be encountered:

These include: roe deer, European badger, Eurasian harvest mouse, European polecat, European water vole, European hedgehog, Eurasian red squirrel, common pipistrelle, European hare, brown long-eared bat, stoat, serotine bat, European mole, Natterer's bat, least weasel, red fox, Daubenton's bat, beech marten and several species of shrew, dormice, apodemus and arvicolinae.

The "Hazenputten" was nominated by Staatsbosbeheer for the title of "Most beautiful spot" in the Netherlands in 2013.The Vresselse Bossen are part of Het Groene Woud, a vast nature area between Eindhoven, Den Bosch and Tilburg.

West of the Vresselse Bossen lies the valley of the Dommel, in the northwest the Vresselse Forest reaches the Moerkuilen.

To the north there is the reclaimed heathland of the Jekschot Heath and to the east lies the DAF test track and Mariahout Forest.

Water vole

Water vole may refer to:

In North America, the North American water vole (Microtus richardsoni)

In Eurasia, the three species of the genus Arvicola:

European water vole (Arvicola amphibius; previously Arvicola terrestris)

Southwestern water vole (Arvicola sapidus)

Montane water vole (Arvicola scherman)

Extant species of subfamily Arvicolinae
(Collared lemmings)
(mole voles)
(Steppe lemmings)
incertae sedis

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