Common Vlei Rat - Otomys irroratus:

The Common Vlei Rat is a blunt nosed rat with long, shaggy hair and rather a short tail. They are named because of their association with damp vleis (marshes) and wet grassland on the fringes of streams and swamps, although they seldom actually take to the water unless retreating from a predator. Owls, eagles, snakes and small carnivores prey on this species. Occasionally they take over the burrow of another species, but more usually they build a saucer-shaped nest above the high water level on the banks of streams or rivers, or on the edges of swamplands. They feed on grass by biting through the stem near the base, taking the stem in their mouths, and then holding each end of the stem with a paw while eating short pieces. They also eat fresh faeces, which helps to provide bacteria for digestion. Vlei rats are most active during the day, and are most often seen either singly or in pairs. Some rural communities regard the common vlei rat as a delicacy for the roasting pot and lay traps for it. A litter of one to five young is born at a time, and the new-born are covered with soft black fur.

SIZE: Length (including tail) 24 cm, mass (m) 120 g, (f) 115 g.

COLOUR: A brindled dark slate-grey tinged with buff; the flanks, cheeks and underparts being lighter. The upper surface of the tail is dark brown, the under surface is buff.

MOST LIKE: The five other species of vlei rat in South Africa. They are best distinguished by museum specialists. The common vlei rat, however, is the most widespread.

HABITAT: Lush vegetation growing in the damp soil alongside vleis, swamps, rivers and streams. Also on green hillsides near water.

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