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Bank vole

The smallest of the UK’s voles, bank voles have a reddish-chestnut coat with a dirty white underside. The bank vole tail is under half the length of their body and they have a blunt nose with small eyes and ears. At first sight, they can be confused with field voles, which are greyer, or wood mice, which have a longer tail and bound rather than scurry. Bank voles are active during both the day and night, and forage over distances up to 50 metres. Males sometimes travel further to find a mate. They make their nests in shallow burrows that they dig just beneath the ground, which they line with leaves, grasses, moss or feathers. They are very nimble climbers and often climb up bushes to nibble fruit and buds.

Head-body length: 8 – 12cm
Tail length: Less than half the body length
Weight: 14 – 40g
Lifespan: Up to 18 months

Reproduction

Litters of 3 – 5 blind, hairless young are born between April and October and become independent within nine weeks but over half of those born early in the season will die before they are four months old.

Diet

Grass, roots, fruit such as apples, seeds, and also insects and earthworms.

Habitat

Broadleaf woodland, scrubland, hedgerows and sometimes gardens where there is plenty of ground cover and food.

Predators

Tawny owls, weasels and foxes.

Threats

Habitat loss and agricultural pesticide use.

Status & conservation

Native to Great Britain; populations in Ireland were accidentally introduced in the 1950s. Common and widespread. Bank voles are not legally protected in the UK and have no conservation designation.

UK population size & distribution

UK population 23,000,000. The population trend is unknown. Bank voles are widely distributed throughout Britain and the south west of Ireland.

Did you know?

A close relative (subspecies) of the bank vole is present on Skomer Island off the south west coast of Wales. The Skomer vole arrived there hundreds of years ago and is twice the size of its mainland relative.

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