The water vole, or the European water rat, by the sizes is similar to a house rat-pasyukom, but well differs from the last, as well as from a black rat, in shorter tail making about a half of length of a body, considerable shorter ears, hardly outstanding of fur, small eyes and the device of molars, with a flat chewing surface and the alternating triangular loops of enamel located on it. The described device of teeth is characteristic of a subfamily of voles which the water rat treats. Coloring of fur on the top side of a body fluctuates, from temnokorinnevy to black or almost black. The fur possesses the best qualities in spring time, in April and May then the molt begins, and the skin of a small animal loses trade value.
The water rat is one of the most widespread rodents in the territory of the former USSR, meeting from the western borders of the European part on the East to Baikal and the basin of the Lena River. In the north this look lodges to tundra border, in the south — to the Black and Azov seas, lives in the Caucasus, but is absent in the southern desert regions of Kazakhstan and in all Central Asia.
The water vole often lodges on coast of the rivers, lakes, ponds and other reservoirs, but quite often she can be met far from water — on meadows, kitchen gardens, fields and even in orchards. Especially often removes on drier sites during a high water; after recession of water comes back closer to water.
Holes of this small animal are located at a small depth, and only the separate courses reach in depth of meter and more. Often holes have complex structure with many branching courses, several chambers and several openings. Quite often holes of a water rat remind holes of a mole, especially on existence of many earth small groups which are thrown out outside. Sometimes the water rat suits also nests on the Earth's surface. Spends winter time in a hole, eating stocks which it collects since fall. In storerooms of its holes found rhizomes, tubers and bulbs of many plants: strelolist, rogoz, wild radish, and also potatoes.
Sometimes water rats lay under snow the extensive superficial courses in search of sedge sprouts, etc. The part of small animals moves by winter under ricks and even in economic constructions.
Reproduction begins in the spring and the whole summer proceeds; during this time there is probably about four dung, in everyone 3 — 14 cubs are born. In some years water rats breed especially strongly, and the quantity them sharply increases. After such rise in number very favorable for an ermine, a mink and other small predators, the quantity of water rats decreases again within several years.
The water rats living at water eat mainly coastal and partly floating plants, eat roots of water-lilies, leaves of a strelolist, a sedge, escapes of reed, osier-bed bark and so forth, partly eat water animals, insects, etc.
The water rat leads mainly a nocturnalism, but sometimes it is possible to see her to day, especially in the period of a high water when she looks for shelters on not flooded parts of trees and other objects which are given from water. She well swims and dives and can even catch in water of small small fishes.
The water rats settling far from water quite often harm bakhcha, kitchen gardens, damage potatoes tubers, corn and other grain crops, and also roots and bark of young trees.
As a trade animal the water rat received the place in pushnozagotovitelny business only since 1926. Rather high prices established in the first years of trade, huge stocks of this rodent in the USSR, comparative ease of production — all this induced local hunters to become interested in its catching.
The fur of a small animal goes mainly on female outerwear. It is quite beautiful, but fragile.
Ways of fishing of a water rat are very various. Small animals are caught by means of a dog, dug out of holes, beaten with sticks during a high water when they, sometimes in a huge number, escape on flood-free manes and on trees. Water rats can be caught well metal traps No. 0 and 1. Traps put about holes with a bait from bread, carrots, apple. It is possible to put a trap and absolutely without bait, having powdered slightly with the earth. Good results are yielded by installation of traps in those places where on damp soil about water numerous traces — prints of pads of these rodents running on crude coastal soil preceding at night dazzle.
At trade of a water rat and removal of skins it is necessary to be careful as this small animal is a carrier of an infectious disease — the tulyaremiya dangerous and for the person.