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Water voles

The Water vole is fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). They are the fastest declining mammal in Wales and a priority for conservation efforts

The water vole is our largest vole, approaching half a kilo in weight. It has a blunt nose, helping us to distinguish it from the rat. It burrows into the banks of rivers and streams, eating grasses, rushes, sedges and aquatic plants. It can eat up to three-quarters of its own body weight each day. They are sociable animals and share nests during the winter.

The water vole is listed on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), for which the following are offences:

  • Intentional killing, injuring or taking
  • Intentionally or recklessly damaging / destroying a place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturbing an animal in its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally or recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter / protection
  • Possession (live or dead, including derivatives), sale and offering for sale

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) can grant licences for specific purposes under the legislation, so you can undertake certain activities without breaking the law. We cannot issue licences for development, but offer advice on reducing the risk of committing offences. See ‘Water vole licensing’ for more information on both these aspects.

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