Mammals

The Kennet valley is now a stronghold for that much-loved and much-declined animal, the Water Vole. It can be mistaken for a rat, which also forage along the river, but it has a shorter tail, more rounded head and browner fur. It is most easily detected by looking for its characteristic prints in wet mud, or searching for the distinctive burrow entrances, generally just above the water's edge. Unfortunately, it has few defences against the mink, an escaped predator from America, and its future may depend on effective mink control.

This water vole was photographed at Stonebridge Wild River Reserve in Summer 2014.



The valley is also good for bats, especially the Pipistrelle which feeds on small flying insects near the river.  Both common and soprano varieties can be seen across the meadows and around the trees.  Daubentons can be seen hunting above the water on the river.


Otters have successfully recolonised the River Kennet and although sightings are rare, the evidence of their presence can be found on the riverbanks.  Otter spraint is the dung of otters and is often described as having a sweet aroma.  You can normally see the remains of fish scales and bones within the spraint, which when fresh is tarry and black and often deposited on boulders or rocks by the river.   

Otters are at the top of the aquatic food chain, they are a native predator and are a key indicator of the health of the river.   Mortality on roads and habitat degradations continues to have a negative impact on otter populations.  

Otter by David Kjaer
photo credit - David Kjaer