From bats to beavers: five mammals that live by UK waterways

Holidaying by a river? Keep your eyes peeled for some intriguing creatures

Water voles: an endangered species

Distinguished from the rat by its blunt nose, small ears and furry tail, the water vole is an endangered species. It lives around rivers, streams, ponds and lakes – and in marshes and moorland. Look out for riverbank burrows with a nibbled “lawn” of grass around the entrance – a sure sign that there are water voles around.

Beavers: back from extinction

After a 400-year absence after being hunted to extinction, Britain’s largest rodent has been reintroduced. The size of a tubby spaniel, the beaver lives in freshwater habitats and builds dams. It is most visible at dusk and dawn.

Bats: seasonal sightings

There are 18 bat species living in the UK. In summer they come out of hibernation, hunt insects, give birth and raise their young. They can be found all over the country – particularly in warm weather and near water with insects to prey on.

Otters: waterway predators

An elusive waterway predator, the British otter is widespread but rare. Head to the rivers and wetlands of Scotland, west Wales, the West Country or East Anglia for the best chance of sighting one. Keep an eye out for five-toed footprints (6-7cm long) and droppings in prominent places left as messages on the ground.

Rats: urban warriors

Strong swimmers, rats can often be spotted around waterways, particularly in urban areas where there’s an easy supply of food. They’re unpopular creatures, but surely you’d rather see one of the UK’s estimated 150m wild rats swimming in a canal than in your bathtub…

For more information, visit the Wildlife Trust

Contributor

Michael Segalov

The GuardianTramp

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