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Water Vole Surveys

The water vole (Arvicola amphibius) is the largest species of vole in Britain, living in rivers, streams, ditches and other wetland areas. Once widespread, the water vole population in the UK has declined steadily since the 1900’s, mainly due lost of suitable habitat and by predation by the introduced American Mink. Water voles create small burrows in banks just above the water line and feed primarily on reeds, rushes, sedges and other aquatic vegetation. The water vole breeding season runs between March and September, with each female water vole producing two to five litters annually, each with 3-8 young.

Water Vole Legislation

Following an amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in April 2008, water voles now receive full protection. Hence it is an offence to kill or injure water voles, and to damage, destroy or obstruct access to places of shelter or protection (burrows) and to disturb water voles whilst they are using such a place.

In addition, the water vole is also a Priority UK BAP species and is a Species of Principal Importance in England under Section 41 of the NERC Act 2006(Section 42 in Wales) and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act in Scotland. This places a duty on the Planning Authority to make the effect of a development on protected species a material consideration when considering planning applications. Therefore, where water voles may be affected by development, it is reasonable for the Planning Authority to require mitigation or enhancement work to safeguard the local population.

Water Vole Seasonal Constraints

Surveys for water vole can generally be undertaken at any time of year, but are best conducted between May and August. Please click below to view our water vole survey and mitigation calendar.

Water Vole Survey and Mitigation Calendar

Initial Water Vole Scoping Surveys

Our qualified ecologists can undertake a thorough appraisal of your project to assess the likelihood that water voles may be present, and/or could be affected by the proposed work. This appraisal is based on an examination of the habitat types present on site including an assessment of the foraging resources, the suitability of the banks for burrowing and the presence of adequate cover/shelter. In addition, the nature of the proposed work and the results from a desk study are also assessed.

Water Vole Presence/ Absence Surveys

Where required, we can also undertake a full water vole presence/absence survey. Usually a number of visits are carried out over a period of time, with the survey area examined for signs of water voles presence, such as burrows, droppings or feeding remains.

Water Vole Mitigation

Should water voles be found, our ecologists will investigate all options to avoid the potential impact on water voles, such as using alternative construction methods or ensuring all site works remain a suitable distance from the banks of the water body. However, if work within the water body or close to the banks cannot be avoided, and where only a short section of a water body is to be directly affected, the water voles can be encouraged to move to a different area of the water body by progressive strimming of the vegetation down to remove cover and foraging opportunities that water voles need. This is most effective when undertaken during late February to April, and must be done under the supervision of an ecologist to ensure that no individual water voles are harmed.

Where a large length of water course or riparian habitat will be affected by the proposed work, or a significant population of water voles is identified during the initial surveys, the translocation of the water voles away from the area of works may be necessary. This involves installing exclusion fencing and implementing a trapping programme to capture and relocate the water voles. Find out more about our mitigation services.

Call us on 01256 892 640 for a friendly chat about your project.