Water vole

Water voles are protected by their inclusion in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), which protects both the water voles and the water vole’s shelter or burrow system. As a result, it is currently illegal to intentionally damage, destroy or obstruct the access to any water vole tunnel system, or to disturb the voles whilst they are using such a place.



The water vole is a Priority Species within the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and has been included in the ‘List of habitats and species important to biological conservation in England’ prepared under Part 3, Section 74 of the CRoW Act 2000.


Water voles are the largest British vole, and are seasonally social animals. In spring all breeding females occupy exclusive defended territories, but in winter, larger numbers of animals may nest communally. They nest in a complex underground burrow system which can extend back 5m from the watercourse bank, often surrounded by above ground runways. Vegetation is their main food source, particularly grasses, sedges and rushes, although water voles may also take insects, fish and molluscs on occasion. Territories are marked by the secretion from flank glands, which is deposited at latrines and during territorial encounters.


Corylus Ecology can carry out surveys for water voles, these involve looking for field signs that they are present such as:


  • Burrows in the bank side and on top of the bank set back from the water’s edge
  • Droppings (as single or small numbers not latrines)
  • Well maintained latrines
  • Feeding piles and other feeding signs
  • Runs in and under the vegetation

Corylus Ecology Ltd

Unit A3 Speldhurst Business Park

Langton Road


Tunbridge Wells



T 01892 861868


12 Great Bridge Cottages

Headborough Road



TQ13 7QW

T 01364 653300

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