The European Water Vole, Arvicola Amphibius (formerly A. terrestris), is a semi-aquatic rodent. Though it is commonly known as a water rat it has a rounder nose, deep brown fur, a chubby face and short fuzzy ears and its tail, paws and ears are covered with hair. In Britain, water voles live in burrows in the banks of watercourses, or in ball shaped nests above ground. They prefer lush vegetation that provides protective cover, though they also thrive in peatland areas.The water vole population in the UK has fallen from its estimated pre-1960 level of around 8 million around 220,000 IN 2004. Full legal protection was introduced in April 2008.
What this means is that developers and construction teams must not kill water-voles, even by accident, and must ensure that their habitats are maintained and preserved. As with other protected species, ecologists will survey sites for water voles and, if their presence is established, various forms of mitigation can be put in place. These will range from improving and protecting the existing habitats to creating new sites elsewhere to which the population can be translocated. The mitigation fencing can also be used to shield these newly translocated populations while they establish themselves in their new habitats.
For a new habitat to be suitable for water voles, it needs to be established up to twelve months in advance of a translocation. There are only short windows each year when these can be carried out, and developers often require work to be completed quickly once a licence is granted. Knighton Countryside is well enough resourced to be able to send experienced teams all over the country at short notice. Whatever specifications are recommended by the ecologist, we can implement them, and clients have the reassurance that we work in accordance with the Ecological Clerk of the Works according to industry best practice. We can install a variety of measures such as Sherman traps, soft-release pens as well as appropriate netting or meshing to prevent recolonization once an area has been cleared. We have extensive experience in carrying out the final destructive search as well.
With our experience in riparian work we are also equipped to carry out habitat improvement measures. The ground conditions involved are often restrictive but we can look at bank vegetation management to encourage fresh growth and provide feeding areas. Bank restoration and stabilisation using hazel faggots will also improve the quality of existing or potential habitats for water voles and we have a number of resources available to enable all terrain access, including 4 WD vehicles, ATVs and even a kayak!