Redbridge Lakes - The Nature Conservation Project.

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Can you tell the difference between a Water Vole and a Rat?

Water voles are sometimes mistaken for rats, but look carefully and you will see many differences.

  • The rat has a long pointy face, whereas the water vole has a shorter, rounder face.
  • The rat has very prominent ears, whilst the ears of a water vole are well hidden.
  • Rats have a bare scaly tail, whereas the water vole has a shorter, furry one.
  • Both animals can swim as well as run around the bank-side looking for food.


So if you think you saw a RAT think again it may have been a WATER VOLE!!


Loss of habitat

One of the main reasons for the decline in water vole numbers is loss of habitat. Water voles occur mainly on slow-flowing rivers, ditches and ponds, providing that they have suitable banks for burrows and plenty of bank-side vegetation for cover. They live in small tunnels or burrows in the banks of streams and also deep in thick vegetation such as tussock grass. Ditch and river clearance, particularly for flood relief, can damage or destroy the banks where they live. Here at Redbridge Lakes we have created a perfect habitat for them and we are pleased that our anglers see them regularly. Like all lakes we also have Rats and we have a programme to keep them in control without poisoning the Voles.


Natural predators for both Rats and Voles.

Cats can be a major problem to water voles and rats and we have a big black and white feral that fortunately causes more problems for the rats, but the most dangerous predator is the American mink. We have had Mink here at Redbridge Lakes; they come from the River Roding. The mink has been loose in the English countryside since the 1950s and has proved to be a very successful predator. As the mink is not a native British species, the water vole has no defense. It can swim away from natural predators such as the stoat, and it can hide in its burrows from otters and herons. But the mink can swim extremely well and the female is small enough to get into burrows. The mink will also take all other forms of wildlife in its territory including rats, coots, moorhens and fish and although it is a pest there is no national strategy for mink control.