Water Vole burrows found on a ditch bank on Cambridge’s historic Backs mean this endangered species could be re-introduced to the area.

Water Vole burrows found on a ditch bank on Cambridge’s historic Backs mean this endangered species could be re-introduced to the area.

As the name suggests these guinea pig-like rodents live along the banks of waterways or ditches. Chubby-faced and fuzzy-eared, they are one of the most endangered species in the UK. They used to be a common sight and were also called Water Rats, inspiring the character 'Ratty' from Wind in the Willows.

This iconic character is much loved to this day, appearing again on New Year's Day in a new feature-length version of the Wind in the Willows on BBC 1 starring Bob Hoskins, Matt Lucas and League of Gentleman star Mark Gatiss as Ratty.

Sadly the real 'Ratty' is on the verge of extinction due to the destruction of their natural habitat and the introduction of the American mink to Europe, predators of the vole.

When King's and Clare Colleges decided to have the ditches dredged last spring, they had the area surveyed by the Wildlife Trust who discovered the burrows on one ditch between the two colleges.

The fenlands in Cambridgeshire are a refuge for the endangered Water Vole, and as their population increases they will try to migrate to other areas in the district which have the exact conditions to support them.

This particular ditch was found to be a good habitat for these shy creatures. It is a sunny, quiet, ideally sloping bank, with no sign of cats, mink or foxes. This was proven by the number of ducklings along the backs, which would normally be eaten by these predators.

The voles have been recorded at nearby Garret Hostel Lane meaning there is a good chance of them migrating to the area; the ditch conservation is planned for Summer 2007 once funding has been obtained.

Top 5 Water Vole Facts:

  1. They like to sun-bathe.
  2. They can migrate up to two miles at a time.
  3. They burrow in banks of waterways.
  4. If there is no suitable place to burrow they can weave ball shaped nests out of reeds!
  5. They are expert swimmers and divers, but they also like to ride on floating bits of wood like boats!

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