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Rodents form the largest order of mammals, with about 1,500 species occurring throughout the world. They are characterised by a single pair of incisors in both jaws that grow continuously throughout their lifetime.

Eleven species occur in Essex of which the most widespread is the grey squirrel, which was introduced from America in the 19th century and has since then driven out its close cousin the red squirrel completely (from Essex but not yet from Britain).

The group includes Britain's fastest declining mammal, the water vole, which is suffering from loss of habitat and predation by another introduced species, the american mink.

As well as the voles the group also includes the mice (of which the wood mouse is the most widely distributed mammal in Essex and probably in Britain), the rats (and notably the brown rat) and the dormouse, another once-common species that has declined drastically in recent decades.

© Gerald Downey