Quick facts

Common name: bank vole

Scientific name: Myodes glareolus

Family: Cricetidae

Habitat: woodland, farmland, grassland urban areas

Diet: fruit, nuts and small insects

Predators: raptors and larger mammals

Origin: native

What do bank voles look like?

Bank voles are small chestnut-brown rodents with a cream-coloured underbelly and a short hairy tail.

Like all voles, it has small eyes, a short tail and a rounded snout. Bank voles have large ears (but not as large as mice) which distinguish them from other UK vole species.

Not to be confused with: the field vole. Field voles have a shorter tail (around 30% the length of its body, compared to 50% for the bank vole). Also, don’t confuse with mice, which are not as stoutly built as voles and have very long, hairless tails.

Bank vole feeding on a blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Credit: John Gooday / Alamy Stock Photo

What do bank voles eat?

Bank voles have a varied diet of vegetation, roots, fungi and a variety of fruits and nuts – blackberries are a particular favourite – as well as occasionally hunting for small insects.

Bank vole with babies

Credit: Juniors Bildarchiv Gmbh / Alamy Stock Photo

How do bank voles breed?

Bank voles usually breed in shallow burrows. They produce three to four litters of between three and five young per year. Females tend to favour dominant males. Both males and females can be aggressive to litters that aren’t their own, with some females attacking litters in overlapping territories.

Voles are born hairless and blind and are weaned after about 25 days. Females reach sexual maturity after six weeks and males after eight. Bank voles can live for around two years, but few reach such an age, with many falling victim to predators.

Did you know?

If you listen you may be able to hear bank voles.

They can make a low growling noise as well as the squeaks you might expect from a rodent.

Where do bank voles live?

Bank voles are common and widespread across the UK. They don’t hibernate so you can spot them all year round. Their burrows are often in grassy areas buried shallowly underground but can be above ground provided there is thick cover.

Look out for them on woodland edges and hedgerows; they’re very fast though so you’ll need a keen eye!

Did you know?

They may be hard to spot. Bank voles avoid being caught by their many predators by sticking to dense vegetation and even using underground tunnels for safety.

Signs and spotting tips

Bank voles are ever wary of danger, so most sightings are just a fleeting glimpse. If you hear a rustling in the undergrowth, stay very still and quiet and you might catch a glimpse of a foraging vole. Some bank voles become more confident in urban areas and you might even spot one near your bird feeders looking for an easy meal!

Bank vole sitting on English oak acorn

Credit: Adrian Coleman / WTML

Threats and conservation

The bank vole population is thought to be stable with no severe threats. However, the species will be affected by damage and destruction to hedgerows and woodland, which represent important habitat. We are restoring, planting and protecting woods and trees to help maintain the biodiversity so vital to all of our native wildlife.