Zoogdieren De West-Europese woelrat of zuidelijke woelrat Arvicola sapidus is een knaagdier uit de familie der hamsters en woelmuisachtigen Cricetidae. De soort is nauw verwant aan de gewone woelrat Arvicola amphibius en de bergwoelrat Arvicola scherman , en de drie lijken veel op elkaar. Deze woelrat is ietwat kleiner kop-romplengte van mm, gewicht van gram en heeft een langere staart mm. Als de verspreidingsgebieden van de twee soorten overlappen bijvoorbeeld in Noord-Frankrijk , is echter het tegenovergestelde waar: in het noorden van zijn leefgebied is de West-Europese woelrat groter dan de gewone woelrat. Zijn bruingrijze vacht is lichter dan die van de gewone woelrat. De vacht aan de onderzijde is iets lichter en geliger van kleur als de vacht aan de bovenzijde.

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The Southern water vole was once considered a subspecies of the European water vole however, it is now considered a separate species, in part due to significant morphological differences. The Southern water vole is a small rodent with a rounded muzzle, rounded body with barely visible small ears.

The fur which is much thicker than on other voles is dark brown or blackish on the back and lighter on the flanks and under-parts. The tail which is about 10cm long is covered in short, stiff, sparse hairs. The body is between 16 and 23cm and they weigh to grams. Southern Water vole. In France the Southern water vole remains relatively common in only three regions: Charente-Maritime, Brittany and southwest France Pyrenees , though its distribution is still patchy in these areas.

As recently as 20 years ago it was thought to be present across France and reasons for the decline are as yet unclear. It is almost always found near to water, preferring small freshwater lakes, ponds and slow-moving rivers and streams with dense bank side vegetation Saucy , Fedriani They sometimes are found in drainage ditches and wet fields.

Abundant vegetation and bank sides suitable for water vole burrowing activity seem to be essential characteristics of water vole habitat. Its diet consists mainly of aquatic plants, grasses, and herbs, although small animal prey are occasionally taken insects, fish, tadpoles, freshwater shrimp.

The burrows of the water vole typically have two entrances, one primary entrance above water level and one underwater entrance. The water vole is mainly active during the day, with two peaks in activity in late morning and early afternoon, as well some nocturnal activity. It is active throughout the year, with no period of hibernation. Water vole prints - traces are difficult and often inconclusive.

Photo: Southern water vole excrement by a riverside, Vienne, France Reproduction occurs between March and October, with 3 to 4 litters of 2 to 8 young per litter.. The gestation period is 3 weeks. Sexual maturity is reached at 5 weeks old and the life span of the water vole varies from 2 to 4 years. The water vole lives in small family groups and, under optimal conditions, its density may reach 5 individuals for every meters of riverbank Saucy , Palomo and Gisbert, There have never been any records of damage to human activity or agriculture by the Southern water vole unlike the European Water Vole Arvicola amphibious in its terrestrial form with which it could be confused.

In descending order of importance, the principal threats are: Secondary poisoning with anticoagulant rodenticides Bromadiolone and Chlorophacinone intended for the Brown rat, Coypu and Muskrat. Competition for habitat and food sources with the Muskrat and Coypu. Predation by the American Mink, Polecat and Brown rat, as well as domestic dogs and cats. Habitat modification, including draining of suitable wetlands, dredging, canal-building, disturbance by human activity and livestock, etc..

Drastic variations in water level caused by dams or seasonal droughts. Pollution and possibly disease and parasites. Also the amphibious vole Arvicola sapidus was placed in the category of a fully protected species by law in France since October Linnaeus proposed both amphibius and terrestris in on the same page,they are now considered conspecific by most researchers. Although this species is protected in the UK due to threat of extinction there, no such protection applies in France where it is considered to be vermin in its terrestrial form.





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