Water Voles are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
The water vole, Arvicola terrestris, is the largest species of vole in Britain. They are excellent swimmers and inhabit wetland areas including ditches, streams and rivers, creating burrows into the banks.
Due to habitat loss and predation by mink, populations of water voles Arvicola terrestris have severely declined in the UK. During the 1990s the water vole population decreased by 90%.
Therefore, they are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This makes it an offence to harm or kill a water vole, or to damage or destroy water vole habitat.
Because water voles tend to live in and around water courses, it is possible to protect them from development works by erecting fencing around their habitat thus ensuring that construction does not occur within the area.
If only a small area of habitat is affected it can be possible to cut the vegetation down gradually to make the area unsuitable for water voles causing them to move away by themselves. If this method is unsuccessful or if the area affected is too large, it may be necessary to install water vole fencing and traps. The trapped water voles are then moved, under license from Natural England, to an area of suitable habitat.
Suitable habitat for water voles can be created by:
- Creating refuge areas above flood levels
- Encouraging the growth of dense grasses on the banks
- Removing excessive tree and shrub growth along the banks
- Creating steep bank sides to allow the water voles to burrow
- Re-profiling water courses to include meanders and bends
- Ensuring water is present all year round
- Creating shallow marginal areas with reeds, rushes and sedges