Water vole: characteristics, habitat, reproduction and behavior

Water vole: characteristics, habitat, reproduction and behavior

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L'aquatic vole (Vole amphibius) is a widespread animal in the Palearctic region, that macro area that embraces most of central and western Europe, Siberia, Mongolia and some parts of south-western Asia. It is therefore also found in Italy, although it is less widespread than in the past.

Where the water vole lives

The water voles live in the banks of rivers, streams, ponds is other water bodies which maintain a fairly constant water level. They prefer areas with good plant cover. They are found mainly in the lowland areas near waterways, but are sometimes also found in gardens and fields. Water voles dig long burrows, between 30 and 70 meters, which contain one or two nests and in winter also contain "storage" chambers for food.

What the water vole looks like

The average length of the male body is 210 mm, while that of the females is 187 mm. The average tail length is 124 mm in males and 116.5 in females. Males have an average weight of 263g, while females have an average weight of 232g.

With a dense coat of fur, small ears is rounded is short tail, the water vole resembles other voles of similar size. Water voles are relatively large voles, with thick fur, which extends from the head to the tip of the tail. The color varies from light brown to dark brown on the top (sometimes black); and from white to slate gray on the underside. This coloring makes them difficult to see in the dense vegetation they prefer. The claws on each of the feet are well developed, and the lateral glands on the sides of the body used to mark territory are also visible most of the time. Water voles have the typical dental formula of rodents and have continuously growing cheek teeth.

Reproduction of the water vole

Male aquatic voles continually compete for intercourse with females. This specimen has one mating season per year, which usually runs from the beginning of spring (April / March) to the end of summer / beginning of autumn (August / October). During this period, water voles can have up to four litters with an average number of four to six little ones each. The gestation period is short, 21 days. The weight of the newborn is usually 5 g, with the pups opening their eyes about 5 days, and weaning occurs 14 to 21 days after birth. Sexual maturity is reached during the first summer, if born at the beginning of the season, or in the following mating season if after.

How long do aquatic voles live

Aquatic voles have a short lifespan and have a high mortality rate in their first year of life. They can live up to 5 years in captivity, but the average lifespan in the wild is less than a year.

Behavior of aquatic voles

Although they sometimes live in close proximity to large numbers of other individuals, water voles tend to live in smaller family units, usually made up of several individuals. Usually in these family units there is the adult generation and up to two generations of young people. Water voles are active mainly during the day or at sunset and sunrise. Furthermore, water voles tend to limit the extent of their activity to a certain range.

Feeding habits of the water vole

There aquatic vole diet it is mainly composed of various forms of vegetation, which includes different types of herbs and sometimes fruits and seeds. Water voles also feed on the roots of some plants, causing extensive damage to the roots and sometimes the destruction of crops. In addition to vegetation, water voles sometimes supplement their diet with water snails, freshwater mussels and shellfish.

In winter, water voles usually keep at least one chamber in the burrow as a place to store grass and other foods to feed on during the lean winter months. They will not support themselves entirely from this warehouse and, therefore, will continue to search for food during the winter.

In this regard, we remind you that aquatic voles will love to seek safety in their burrows and will limit their movements mainly to areas of dense vegetative cover to avoid predation. Their prodigious reproduction rates generally help keep populations viable under the stress of predation by natural predators.

In general, aquatic voles are an important base of prey for many small and medium-sized predators. They are also important in the nutrient cycle through their digging and grazing activities in the ecosystems they live in.

Aquatic voles and man

Although their economic benefit to humans is somewhat limited, in some regions (such as the one once occupied by the former Soviet Union), water voles are hunted for their fur.

The negative economic impact of these animals on humans comes mainly from the destruction of human crops such as beans and peas. In rare circumstances they have also been known to weaken river banks due to their extensive digging. In addition to damage to crops, the vole is known to carry and sometimes transmit tularemia, a disease that mainly affects rodents and wild rabbits, but can be transmitted to humans through contact with animal flesh or tick bites.

Video: Safari Live - Day 265. National Geographic (July 2022).


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