Well, the truth is Ratty probably never went away. Water voles might disappear from sight during the cold months of winter but they don’t actually hibernate – they simply burrow deeper underground to keep warm, and they spend a lot of time sleeping, which means they don’t need to snack too often from the larder they stock in autumn, full of bulbs, roots and tubers. They also bung up the entrance to their burrows with a mix of vegetation and mud, which helps keep the heat inside.
Come the Spring, they emerge and spend more time out and about, though it’s only in the past month or so that I’ve seen them again at Cosmeston. That may just be the timing of my visits, though the few I’ve seen have also seemed a bit less confident about being out and about than last year’s Water voles, possibly because some idiot people have let their dogs jump into the dipping pond, an area where they are obviously forbidden.
It’s probably impossible to tell how many of last year’s release of 100 Water voles have survived the winter but another 40-odd were released a few weeks back to supplement the local population.
People love to watch them, young and old alike, so let’s hope we can all enjoy them chewing away at the vegetation for the days, weeks, months to come.