WATER voles have now been added to the list of species that cannot be injured, killed or taken from the wild.

In the past they had only limited protection as regards the places where they lived and sheltered, but now they have extra legal protection.

Many people, including pest controllers and developers, mistake the endangered water vole for the brown rat and there have been cases in the past where this creature has been accidentally poisoned or had their homes disturbed.

The water vole has been described as the UK's fastest declining mammal and cases of mistaken identity with brown rats still does pose serious implications.

The key to overcoming this problem is to spot the difference between a water vole and a brown rat and for people to take an active part in reporting any water vole discoveries to the Wildlife Trusts.

There are several clear characteristics to distinguish between a water vole and a rat. The water vole has small hidden ears, silky mid-brown fur, a blunt nose and a shorter furry tail, whereas the brown rat has big ears, grey brown fur, a pointed nose and a long, pink and scaly hairless tale.

Water voles also feed on vegetation, whereas rats are opportunist feeders and will eat a variety of foods.

The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is based at Lower Smite Farm, Smite Hill, Hindlip.