Not a vole lot to look forward to
IMAGINE you are basically put on earth just to act as someone else’s dinner – welcome to the world of the field vole.
These poor little blighters are constantly playing a game of Russian roulette every time they leave their nests.
If the kestrels and barn owls don’t get them then there are always foxes and weasels waiting around the corner.
Field voles can be distinguished from mice because they have rounder faces, shorter tails and ears. They eat seeds and leaves and chomp on roots of plants in grasses, heaths and moors.
A field vole’s fur is a grey-brown colour, which is thicker in winter than after its pre-summer moult.
Field voles are active throughout the year and do not hibernate. They actually slow down in winter, when there is less food around.
This makes them an easier target for their predators who are also struggling through winter. They just can’t win.
Taking that into account, the breeding season doesn’t really end and they can have up to six litters a year. They are believed to be Britain’s most common mammal with an estimated 75 million on the mainland, but none on many of the islands like the Isle of Man, Shetland and the Isles of Scilly.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t important for conservationists because they do serve the important purpose of being food for some of the rarer species in our patch and further afield. Water voles get all the publicity because they are rare and are believed to have inspired the character of Ratty in the Wind in the Willows, but field voles are here for a reason.
The Wildlife Trust is keen that there are nice corridors between fields and hedgerows and scruffy road verges to provide a place for voles and other creatures to live.
Road verges and motorway embankments are some of the best natural nature reserves because they tend to be left alone by humans, only maintained a couple of times a year.
It’s a shame that the field voles now have to rely on areas like this, having been around in the UK since the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago.
You will also see them in your gardens but will probably mistake them for mice.
So if you see a field vole crossing your path, leave it alone because the chances are it might not be around for too long.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070. To become a member of the trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.
●● Field voles have rounder faces and shorter tales than mice