Water voles are currently declining at a rapid rate, they are legally protected in Britain and in 1998 were included on Schedule 5, Section 9 (4) a & b of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and are recorded where favourable habitat exists.
Water vole surveys can be undertaken at any time of the year, however, although they don't hibernate, activity surveys are best undertaken during the optimum period between late April – early October.
During the survey, bank sides are investigated to a distance of up to 100 metres upstream and downstream where possible to investigate for field signs, including:-
Sightings – confirmed sighting of a water vole during the survey.
Latrines – collections of droppings.
Burrows – holes along the water’s edge and in the bank above.
Footprints – forefoot and hind foot.
Pathways in vegetation – low runs or tunnels pushed through vegetation.
Feeding remains – neat piles of chewed lengths of vegetation with 45 degree cuts to the ends
Cropped grass around tunnel entrances – grazed vegetation to form a ‘lawn’ around burrow.
Where water voles are found, the most common recommendation is to ensure all site works remain a suitable distance from the banks of the water body, and where possible a fringe of vegetation should be left at the water’s edge at all times with work carried out during the winter months when water voles are more unlikely to be active and underground in order to avoid disturbance / harm to this species. However, when works within the water body or close to the banks cannot be avoided, a number of mitigation options are available.
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Tyrer Ecological Consultants
Formby Business Centre
42 Duke Street, Formby
Liverpool, L37 4AT