Water voles are the largest species of vole in Britain and are sometimes mistaken for brown rats! However, they're much cuter to look at and have blunt noses, small ears and a long furry tail.
On the decline
They were once widespread, but numbers have dropped dramatically in the last 20 to 30 years. Their future is threatened by loss of habitat, but more worryingly by the invasion non-native American mink. Due to their scarcity, water voles have special conservation status and are legally protected.
They like to live along rivers, streams and ditches, so the mossland with its watery areas is an excellent habitat for the water vole. It's a timid creature, rarely seen and more often heard by the distinctive 'plopping' sound as it jumps into the water to evade being detected.
It's quite easy to find out whether or not there are water voles in the area as they leave distinctive signs. For example, they make areas like tiny mown lawns where they have nibbled away the grassy shoots, leaving little piles of nibbled grass. They also have particular toilet areas known as latrines, where their rounded cigar-shaped droppings can be found.