Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Water Vole Story

Persistent adult, after my bag.

Baby water vole


I've said before how I like to pop a piece of apple down to get the voles to stop for a photo. This isn't "feeding" as it's only ever a tiny piece, and if it isn't taken then I bring it back home with me. (Water voles never go hungry as they eat over 200 different species of plant.)

This afternoon, however, the voles decided to help themselves from my bag of apple pieces. Firstly a baby vole came and had a good sniff and a gnaw on my litter picker, but was too nervous to open the bag itself. Then an adult scrambled up the bank at my feet and went straight for it. She took three pieces of apple, one after another, scurrying back and forth. At one point we actually engaged in a short tug of war.

In the end I lifted the bag onto my lap, out of the way, and when she returned for a fourth piece of apple she seemed put out. She hunted round my feet and under my stool, and then bit my boot. I reckoned she'd had a good haul, myself.

Such close encounters are thrilling, but I need to stress these voles aren't tame and no way would I want them to be. Taming wild animals increases their risk of mortality, and that's the last thing I'd wish. What's happening here is just that the bank is so close to the water level and I sit so still and the voles are so myopic, basically they probably think I'm a tree stump or something. You can bet if I moved or spoke, they'd soon shoot off in a panic.

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