Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Visitors to my garden no. 1.......Bank Vole

It's a shame that the only way I find out which small mammals visit my garden is courtesy of the cats. I'm not actually sure if they are visitors or in fact resident, is it in fact me that is the visitor to their territory? Anyway the Bank Vole caught on camera and in Smudge's mouth last week was a juvenile as they are darker than the adults. The average lifespan is just over a year, with the population peaking in the autumn before the winter takes its toll.
Voles haverounded faces, short ears, small eyes and a tail no more than 1/2 the length of head and body. They live in burrows and move along hidden runways in grass. Bank voles prefer hedgerows, scrub and burrows in gardens and woodland where there is plenty of undergrowth. As the bank vole has a diet of seeds leaves and berries which do not wear their teeth down, their teeth stop growing on maturity , whereas those of the field vole grow continuously thougtheir lives.
Population is at its lowest in April/May before the breeding season starts in late spring & summer. A female vole can have 4/6 babies every6/8 weeks. They are weaned at 14/28 days and are able to breed at 6 weeks although those born in late summer wait until the following year.
They are hunted by birds of prey, owls, stoats,weasels, foxes,badgers, pine marten, wildcats and snakes.
Vole populations build up over 4/5 years, as numbers increase they become more aggressive to each other and stop breeding succesfully, possibly due to stress.

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