Vole, water vole or rat? If damage is found in the garden and pests are to be combated in a targeted manner, they must first be identified. The following guide shows how to distinguish them.


If there are elongated mounds of earth in the garden, where the entrance is not positioned in the middle after lifting the thrown up, but is on the side – it is very likely voles.

Voles can be recognized by the following signs compared to water voles and rats. She:

  • are rather small and rounded
  • have a round face
  • appear compact
  • build narrow passages
  • usually leave no visible feces

Under heavier objects such as paving slabs or lawn curbs , the voles usually do not find any tunnels either. If the mounds of earth are flat and unevenly distributed, an infestation with voles can also be assumed.

water voles

The water vole belongs to the type of voles, but with a body length of up to 22 centimeters they are significantly larger than the well-known and common voles. In contrast to the rats, it also has a round face and is more reminiscent of a hamster.

However, due to their body length, they can be mistaken for rats if the head cannot be seen clearly.

Typical of the water voles are:

  • ducts in the area of ​​roots
  • Feeding damage to the bark of fruit trees
  • incoming plants by undercutting the roots
  • Damage mainly to vegetables and their roots


When it comes to rats, if you see one of the animals, you already have a hundred around. While the number may not be accurate, this rule of thumb is a good guide. Because the shy animals usually don’t show up unless a large number of them have already moved into the garden or house.

Recognizing characteristic features of rats and distinguishing them from other animals such as voles and water voles is relatively easy. They can be recognized by:

  • Long:
    • 12 to 46 centimeters long, depending on the species
    • Rats that are widespread in Europe are usually comparatively large or long
    • Size of about 32 to 46 centimeters is normal
  • shape and color:
    • Rats are elongated
    • Tail is about as long as her body
    • pointed face
    • Colors vary from gray to grey-brown
  • Sense:
    • Feces and urine are often found not only outdoors, but also spread indoors
    • Feces are in the form of small, elongated pieces that are pointed at the ends
    • Urine smells unpleasantly sweet
    • other tracks are larger corridors
    • these can also be under heavier objects, such as under paving slabs, bins or the compost heap
    • no raised earth typical
  • Odor:
    • sweet to strong smell
    • especially strong on the dug passages and the tracks
  • Nutrition:
    • feed on garbage, such as food waste or fruit and vegetables
    • since they also come into the house, nibble marks can be found on food packaging

Set up a wildlife camera

Setting up a trail camera can provide clarity very quickly and easily. Since wildlife cameras with motion detectors only record when the animals are moving, they are energy-efficient and only film to a reasonable extent. This saves time checking the recordings.

In addition, the animals are also clearly visible in the dark and it can be quickly determined whether they are voles, water voles or rats. With this knowledge, it is much easier to initiate targeted countermeasures.

Of course, it makes sense to set up the camera where, for example, holes in the ground or droppings are noticeable. A tripod or attachment to a wall can ensure that the recordings are clear and sharp and that the animals cannot get to the device. In this way, damage can be avoided.

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