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Water Voles and dredging in Somerset

Water Vole  

02/04/15

The £135,000 spent by the Environment Agency to move 55 water voles before they dredged 8km sections of the rivers Parrett and Tone has caught the headlines recently.

Water Voles are a protected species and disturbing their habitat would be an offence. Dredging water courses on the Somerset Moors and Levels is essential to prevent floods, and so there is an obvious impasse.

Releasing American Mink into the environment is largely responsible for the reduction in Water Vole numbers by 90% in the last ten years but dredging is a threat to the remaining population.

What is needed is a sensible strategy that can be applied to Somerset. Water Vole populations are higher in small rhynes and ditches rather large water courses like the Parrett and Tone.

They only seem able to mover themselves short distances and laterally down the water course. They will not move across fields and into neighbouring ditches. One suggestion is that only small sections are dredged at one time but studies suggest that it takes the voles longer than one year to repopulate dredged banks and by that time the water course will need dredging again.

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