Not a vole lot to look for­ward to

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

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.

Darin Smith

●● Field voles have rounder faces and shorter tales than mice

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