Water vole surveying

Today I was chest deep in a freezing cold river searching for signs of water voles!

Found along our waterways, water voles are similar-looking to the brown rat, but with a blunt nose, small ears and furry tail!

After our Young Nature Watch water vole survey (read more on my YNW page), Inés (YNW co-founder) and I decided to do one on our local river!

We surveyed 500m and found lots of promising signs of water voles!

BURROWS: First of all we found hundreds of burrows! There burrows are generally oval shaped, usually 5-8cm wide, often seen along the water’s edge and bank but with some under the waterline! They often have a ramp/slip outside the burrow, where they slide out!

Burrows at the top of the bank may have a distinctive cropped ‘lawn’ surrounding them where the voles have cut a clear path around their burrow!

FOOTPRINTS: Water voles have star-shaped footprints. Their footprints are similar to a rats, but rat toes tend to be forward facing.

FEEDING SIGNS: Diagonally nibbled stalks of grass and leaves in small piles along tunnels in long grass indicate the presence of water voles.

DROPPINGS: Piles of droppings (latrines) are used as territory markers by females during the breeding season. Water vole droppings are usually 8-10mm long, with virtually no odour. They are particularly distinctive as they are often described as having a tic-tac shape!

We also saw lots of otter signs! We found lots of spraints that were full of fish bones, scales and crayfish parts and also saw a few footprints!

We will be back soon to do the next 500m and I have also put up my trail cam opposite a burrow to hopefully get some footage of voles and maybe even otters!

One thought on “Water vole surveying

  1. Hello Izzy and thank you so much for this, that was so kind and helpful of you. It’s up on our website under YNW , along with the lovely banner ad that Ines sent earlier. I don’t see how people can resist your YNW events, they’re all absolutely brilliant.

    I’d just asked Ines and Debbie for a few words on the day so I’ve bcc’d them in on this so they know I’ve now got them.

    Thank you so much!




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