Water Voles are species found in Great Britain, Europe and Russia. These creatures are lookalike of a rat, lives in burrows formed at the banks of rivers, ditches, ponds, and water streams. The primary food of Water Voles is grass and plants; they also eat fruits, roots, buds, and twigs. The appearance of the Water Voles is like a brown rat, they have short hair-covered tail, rounded face, blunt rounded nose, small ears almost completely hidden by fur and a rich chestnut-brown coat. Mostly Water Voles are found in slow moving water bodies where water flow is consistent.
Due to over population of American Mink, who is a predator of our native Water voles, there was a great decline in the population of our native species. Also the unsympathetic farming and watercourse management are responsible in the destruction of the Water Vole habitat. Research shows that in 1960 the population of water voles was around 8 million, which kept on declining and in 2004 the population was as low as 220,000. This means till now almost 90 – 95% of the water voles population has be declined and it is still reducing drastically.
For conservation of our native species and its habitat, the UK legislation gives legal protection to the Water Voles. As per the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) under Section 9, it is a criminal offence to intentionally kill, injure, take or sell Water Voles. Even to damage or destruct the place where water voles have shelter is illegal. The guilty person is liable to pay fine of £5000 per offence.
In order to conduct any development work or enhancement work at river banks or water bodies it becomes very important to consider about the Water vole survey in the planning procedure. If Water voles are found in the area, the development work can only be commenced once the water vole mitigation is agreed and implemented. Ecological consultants can help in conducting Water Vole Survey & Mitigation by advance ecology friendly techniques.
Water Vole survey is best conducted during mid April to mid September, which is a breeding period of the species. During this period the water voles are most active and stay above ground which makes the survey task easy. The Water Vole survey can prove the presence of water voles by their field signs, burrows, ball nest, droppings, latrines and cutting pattern on vegetables. Apart from breeding season the water vole survey becomes very difficult due to the fluctuating water levels the species stay below ground.
Once the Water Vole survey proves the existence of water voles in the area, the property developers have to conduct Water Vole mitigation. Licensed ecological consultants adopt various techniques to perform the Water Vole mitigation. Some of the techniques include encouraging water voles to move to the neighbor area. Water Vole exclusion fencing is also used to exclude them from the development area. If the development or enhancement work cannot converse the water voles’ burrows, in such cases a licensed ecologist will relocate the water voles to other habitat.
Brenda Rosenthal is a licensed ecologist working at ecological consultants organization. He has specialization in conducting Water vole Survey & Mitigation.