Water rat

The water rat or water vole is a common animal in our area. A small rodent that lives near water bodies. In appearance, these are very cute and harmless animals, however, in agriculture, water rats are considered dangerous pests due to the fact that they cause damage to trees and cultivated plants. They are carriers of many dangerous diseases.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Water rat

Photo: Water rat

Water rat or water vole (Arvicola amphibius) — a small mammal that belongs to the order of rodents, the family of voles. The genus Water voles includes only one species, Water voles.

Rodents are very ancient and extremely common animals. Rodents inhabited our planet during the Cretaceous period. The oldest rodent fossils date back to the Pleocene period, when animals inhabited the territory of modern America. Over time, the appearance of animals has undergone changes, animals have successfully adapted to environmental changes, and at the moment there are 11 families of rodents in our country alone.

Video: Water rat

The family of voles includes 15 genera. Most species of the vole family are small rodents with a small muzzle, small ears, short legs and tail. In the mouth there are strong teeth with which they are able to gnaw through fairly hard wood. The coat of most rodents is short, while that of the water rat is long and thick. The Water Rat has a particularly long tail, which is slightly flattened from the sides, and there are no webbing on the toes of the hind legs. Water rats differ from other rats in their small, almost non-protruding auricles, they differ from gray voles in large size, and differ from muskrats in the shape of their tail. and eat low-nutrient feeds, such as greens, bark and roots of trees and shrubs, grains. Water rats settle near reservoirs, but can also live in the field next to the reservoir and in the forest. Animals of this species are active around the clock, live in burrows. They do not fall into hibernation.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a water rat looks like

Photo: What a water rat looks like

The water rat is a small mammalian animal. The length of the animal is about 140-220 mm. Depending on the habitat, and the quality of life of the animal, body size and weight can vary greatly. On average, the body weight of a water rat is from 130 to 350 grams. The body of the animal is massive and clumsy. On the feet, the third toe is longer than the others. There is no hairline on the heels. The tail is long in size equal to half the length of the body, round in cross section. There are no ring scales on the tail, there is sparse hair.

The tip of the tail ends with a brush 0.5 cm long. The color of the animal can vary from red to black. In different seasons, the color of the animal practically does not change. The fur of the water rat is soft and fluffy. The cover is differentiated into underfur and coarse axis. On the belly of the rat, the hair is lighter in color than on the sides and back. In appearance, the animal is similar to a rat, but differs in fluffy fur, tail shape and larger size. The eyes are small and black. The ears are small and practically do not protrude from the fur; also, due to the long hair, the paws of the animal are almost invisible. The incisors in the mouth are brownish in color, the teeth of the animal are 16. Females and males have no external differences.

The stride length is 7-8 centimeters, they are larger than those of ordinary vole mice. Water voles swim very well and quickly, they can swim quite long distances, they are able to get their own food under water. On land, they run quite fast, especially if the animal is scared. They communicate with each other by squeaking. The lifespan of a water rat is 3-4 years.

Where does the water rat live?

Photo: Water rat in Russia

Photo: Water rat in Russia

The habitat of these animals is extremely wide in our country, water rats can be found almost everywhere. Water rats inhabit the entire northern part of Eurasia from the Atlantic to Yakutia. To the south, the habitat of these animals extends from the Mediterranean Sea to Asia and northern China. Also, these animals are extremely common in the northern part of Mongolia, Ukraine, Belarus, the North Caucasus and Siberia (except the Arctic).

Water rats settle in the openings of rivers, near lakes, ponds and other bodies of water. For life, he chooses places with a humid climate. In the North, settling in forest areas is found on the banks of reservoirs, peat bogs, which are overgrown with pine and birch trees. In the steppe, it lives in swamps and on the banks of lakes around which sedge and reed grow.

With the onset of cold weather, these animals move to forests, or to gardens and orchards where these animals can more easily get their own food. Capable of migrating long distances. A vole can winter under a haystack, or underground in a hole. Water rats build burrows near water; during floods, they can build open nests in thickets of grass and reeds. In autumn it digs holes in meadows and fields. The length of the burrow is about 3 meters, in winter the burrows do not freeze through, and animals can easily survive the winter.

Now you know where the water rat is found. Let's find out what the water vole eats.

What does the water rat eat?

Photo: Water rat in the garden

Photo: Water Rat in the Garden

The water rat is a herbivore and feeds exclusively on plant foods.

The diet of the water rat includes:

  • reeds;
  • reeds;
  • sedge;
  • arrowhead;
  • tailtail;
  • waterfowl and algae;
  • lily lily roots;
  • rhizomes and bark of trees;
  • young shoots of shrubs;
  • vegetables, fruits;
  • moss;
  • plant seeds, spikelets of grain crops .

In the summer, rats get their food near the reservoir, where they feel completely safe. Minks, rats are pulled out by placing the entrance near the reservoir, so that when leaving the water it was possible, in case of danger, to immediately hide in a hole. In autumn, these animals move to forests or closer to fields and cultural plantations.

In winter, they feed mainly on the bark and rhizomes of fruit trees and shrubs, causing them irreparable harm. Therefore, farms are actively fighting these rodents. Water rats are not whimsical in food, therefore they are able to survive even in the harsh conditions of Siberia and Yakutia.

Interesting fact: Water rats eat only in specially designated areas. They arrange «stern tables» or «fodder minks» where the animal can eat in peace. Such places can be recognized by the presence of various leftovers in the form of half-eaten leaves and stems.

In captivity, water rats are fed grain, grass, melons and various fruits and vegetables.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Water Rat vole

Photo: Water rat vole

Water voles are very calm animals leading a rather secretive lifestyle. In the summer, they live near water bodies and spend most of their time in the water. By autumn, they move closer to human settlements, or to forests. There, these animals dig holes and underground tunnels with a large number of entrances from different sides. Before entering the hole, the rats gnaw the grass, creating a semblance of a lawn. In autumn, animals store food in their burrow for the winter. Rats store grain, roots, and anything they can carry into their burrow.

In winter, they do not hibernate, they get out of the holes breaking through the snow. In addition to stocks in winter, they feed on the bark of fruit trees and shrubs, plant seeds. Rats live in colonies, but live alone. During floods, animals move to higher ground, sometimes they can even climb trees. Rats are active around the clock. In the summer, they spend most of their time in the water, swimming in it and foraging for food. In autumn it digs holes and creates reserves for the winter. In winter, it leaves the hole only to get food for itself.

Water rats are very smart and cunning animals, they have a lot of enemies, but they are able to get away from them very easily and quickly through numerous underground passages. The social structure is undeveloped, they live mostly alone, but the burrows of water rats are often located nearby. Water rats are not aggressive unless threatened. They treat a person normally in conditions of captivity and recognize their owner. If the animal feels danger, it can bite.

Interesting fact: Water rats are carriers of such dangerous diseases as Omsk fever, tularemia and many other diseases. Therefore, when you see a rat in the wild, you should not pick it up, or petting the animal is better to bypass it.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Water rat in winter

Photo: Water Rat in Winter

Water voles reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 months. Water rats breed very quickly. The mating season falls on the warm season. During the year, the female manages to endure 2 to 4 litters. The first pregnancy in a year in a female occurs in early spring, the last in late August. A special peak of reproduction in water rats occurs in July. In the cold season, water rats rarely breed, only in case of favorable environmental conditions and the availability of food with which they can feed their offspring.

For one litter, 5-7 cubs are born. Pregnancy lasts 21 days. Rats are born blind and hairless, but they grow very fast. The female takes care of the offspring, the cubs spend the first few weeks of life exclusively in the hole. At first, the mother feeds the cubs with milk. Over time, little rats begin to eat plant foods that their mother brings them, later they begin to get their own food on their own. Within 1.5 -2 months after birth, the young female is already ready for breeding.

Among these animals, mass outbreaks are often found. During such periods, animals massively populate the fields and can cause significant damage to agriculture. Scientists are unable to trace the causes of such mass outbreaks. The range of sharp outbreaks of an increase in the number of rats is limited to small areas.

Natural enemies of the water rat

Photo: What a water rat looks like

Photo: What a water rat looks like

The natural enemies of water rats are predators such as:

  • foxes;
  • weasels;
  • mink;
  • ferrets;
  • otters;
  • hawks;
  • owls and owls;
  • kites and many other birds of prey;
  • dogs and cats;
  • snakes and lizards.

Almost all predators prey on water rats. However, water rats are rather cautious smart and cunning animals. Sensing danger, the rat can hide from the enemy in a split second, the most important thing is to get to one of the entrances to the mink. On the water, a water rat can hide from persecution by hiding under water. These animals are excellent swimmers and they swim well under water.

But the main enemy of water rats was and remains man. Water rats cause great damage to agriculture. Destroy cultivated plants, harm fruit trees. Water rats are not poisoned with poisons in the way that they can poison the crop, and rats are quite smart animals and check unfamiliar food. They first bite off a small piece and if they feel that something is wrong with the food, they no longer touch it.

Farmers install special ultrasonic repellers on their plots that prevent animals from reaching the crop. Water rats are exterminated in large numbers near farms in gardens and orchards. Also, animal fur is highly valued, and many animals are killed for their skins. Skins are harvested in large quantities.

In addition, the state of the environment has a strong influence on the number of animals. Scientists have noticed that in dry years, with hot summers, the number of water rats decreases sharply. This species is susceptible to diseases such as tularia, Omsk fever often suffers from helminth infections.

Population and species status

Photo: Large water rat

Photo: Large water rat

Arvicola amphibius or the water vole is a very numerous species. The status of the species is the species of least concern. Population size may vary depending on weather conditions. Sometimes there are sharp jumps in the birth rate, what this is due to science is not yet known. In such years, animals literally fill the fields, and it becomes difficult for people to save their crops from these pests.

These animals multiply rapidly, easily adapt to environmental conditions, for this species of them, nothing threatens at the moment. In years with dry summers and low yields, the birth rate in rats decreases, this is due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Predators that destroy these animals are a kind of forest orderlies that do not allow the rat population to grow strongly and prevent the spread of dangerous diseases carried by rats.

This species does not need any additional protection. Often bred in captivity for valuable fur. It is well tamed and recognizes its owner. For agriculture, it is a dangerous pest that is very difficult to get rid of. Trying to save the harvest, people put scarers, fences and traps. However, these smart animals can easily get to any place by breaking through tunnels underground.

Interesting fact: Water rats are often migratory, so it is extremely difficult to track their numbers. During the year there are several migrations, while during migrations for rest, animals dig temporary burrows for themselves in order to eat and rest in it. Permanent burrows have a large number of branches and passages.

The water rat is a calm animal leading a solitary lifestyle. They are very smart and resourceful, able to arrange supplies for the winter, easily migrate several times a year choosing the best places for themselves to live. For humans, they are dangerous only because they carry dangerous diseases. They quickly get used to the person. In captivity, they lead a quiet life, and breed all year round.

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