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Water voles shooting

PUBLISHED: 12:58 16 March 2009 | UPDATED: 09:17 11 May 2010

Illustration of water vole and rats distinguishing features.

Illustration of water vole and rats distinguishing features.

A Wildlife Trust is issuing urgent information highlighting the differences between water vole and common rats in a bid to prevent the former, protected species being mistakenly persecuted.

A Wildlife Trust is issuing urgent information highlighting the differences between water vole and common rats in a bid to prevent the former, protected species being mistakenly persecuted.

Penny Hemphill, Water for Wildlife officer with Suffolk Wildlife Trust said: “We have had a recent report of somebody indiscriminately shooting 'anything like a rat that moves' on the River Blythe. This would be disastrous at any time of year but is particularly worrisome now at the start of the breeding season when the animals are at their most active.

“We are also concerned that rat poison is being laid by many rivers that have good and recovering populations of water vole and would strongly advise that any poison be set further than 5m from the river. Water vole is now a nationally protected species, and as such it is an offence to harm them.

Until recently, water vole were considered to be the UK's fastest declining mammal but thanks to efforts by conservationists numbers have gradually increased over the last three years. By working alongside landowners to improve habitat and trap mink - a major predator of water vole - Suffolk Wildlife Trust surveys show that water vole are once again present on the county's rivers.

Rats can be confused with water vole but on closer inspection have marked differences. While rats are larger with greyish fur, a long pointed face and large prominent ears, water vole are smaller with chestnut brown fur, a blunt snout, chubby face and short rounded ears.

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