Latin name: Arvicola terrestris
Size: Body length 12 - 20cm
When: All year round; when it’s very quiet
Where: Loch Ard Forest
A long, V-shaped wake, a sudden plop or the rustle of the bankside grasses are often the only signs you will see of a water vole. They are nervous, secretive creatures – and for good reason. Their numbers have plummeted by 90% over the last few decades. A combination of changes in farming practices and flood control has led to massive habitat loss. On top of that mink, an alien species that escaped from fur farms in the 1960s, have become a major predator.
There are still water voles in the river banks and lochs of the National Park. Some have even been found in tiny lochans in the hills north of Glen Dochart! They are excellent swimmers, though they mainly feed on grasses and other bankside plants. A good sign of their presence is small pieces of nibbled grass left in little piles by the river – they tend to be messy eaters.
If you do catch sight of a water vole sitting on a bank you will understand why they were the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s Ratty in Wind in the Willows. They sit on their haunches, their fat little bodies and rounded faces making them appear almost human.
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