Water Vole Ecology
Water voles Arvicola amphibius can be found in both urban and rural areas and are generally found living within the banks of water bodies such as rivers, streams, ponds and ditches. They feed on a variety of different plant species including grasses and aquatic plants. Water voles excavate burrows within the banks of water bodies which can extend for several metres, and may be used by successive generations. They are the fastest declining wild mammal in Britain, largely due to habitat loss and predation be the introduced American mink Neovision vison.
Protection and Legislation
Water voles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
It is an offence to;
- Kill, injure or take a water vole
- Intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy its place of shelter e.g. a burrow
- Intentionally or recklessly disturb a water vole when it is occupying a place of shelter
- Sell, buy or possess a water vole
Direct sightings of water vole are rare and therefore surveying techniques rely on the observation of characteristic field signs including faeces, latrines, feeding stations, burrows and footprints. Two survey visits will usually be required, one in the period mid-April to June and a second from July-September.
Licensing and Mitigation
Works which will impact upon water voles may require a derogation licence to be obtained from the appropriate statutory body for nature conservation prior to the start of works. A mitigation licence permits operations which would otherwise constitute an offence and will only be approved if it includes a suitable mitigation plan and is completed by a suitably experienced ecologist.