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Water Vole preservation in Somerset

Water Vole  

03/05/15

Following the interest in my previous blog Water Voles both Natural England and the Environment Agency have sent information concerning the preservation of voles and their habitat in Somerset’s smaller waterways and drains.

Anybody considering dredging works should seek guidance from either NE or EA before beginning but as an issue of great local concern I shall outline the principles of vole preservation below.

It is essential that smaller drains and rhynes are kept relatively clear and my concern in this blog is for small holders who might want to dredge short length of watercourse.

It needs to be stressed that Water Voles are a priority species and afforded total protection by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Causing damage or harm to either the animals or their habitat is a criminal offence, punishable by heavy fines and imprisonment and claiming that you did not know that they were there is not considered a defence.

The basic principle of the guidelines is to encourage voles to move away temporarily from the area you need to work on. The best way to do this is to only work on only one side of the bank with the other providing a refuge.

Works should take place in the autumn (September-October) when voles are not breeding and before the pressures of winter are upon them. Vegetation on the bank you intend to work from should be striped back to bare earth. You should wait for some re-growth and then clear again. This will give the voles time to re-locate before dredging work begins.

It will be necessary to conduct a survey for the presence of voles before beginning work. They are best detected by their small burrows, which can be up to two metres away from the water, piles of droppings (latrines) and vole laws (clipped vegetation often at the water’s edge. NE will advise on groups qualified to carry out the survey.

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