Water Vole Surveys

EMEC Ecology have carried out projects relating to water voles throughout the East Midlands, ranging from water vole surveys of short sections of ditch prior to proposed dredging, up to large scale development schemes affecting long stretches of bankside habitat. EMEC Ecology is frequently commissioned to undertake water vole surveys within Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Lincolnshire, and on occasion Staffordshire, Shropshire and further afield.

Water voles burrow into the banks of slow moving water bodies, such as ditches, dykes, streams, slow flowing rivers and large ponds. Water voles were previously common throughout mainland Britain; however due to the loss of habitat and predation by the American mink, their numbers have suffered dramatic declines, by up to 90% in some places.

The water vole receives legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This legislation protects against deliberate killing or injuring and sale, as well as intentional damage, destruction or obstruction of the access to any structure or place which water voles use for shelter or protection or disturbance to water voles while they are using such a place.

It is therefore important that any works directly affecting or within close proximity to suitable water bodies are preceded by a water vole survey to determine presence or presumed absence of this species and any specific mitigation that will be required by the Local Planning Authority.

EMEC Ecology works with many different clients on utilities projects, industrial sites and residential developments. Survey requirements are usually specific to a site and the costs will be calculated accordingly. EMEC Ecology is happy to provide a quotation for any water vole survey that will be both efficient and cost effective to the site specifics. Reports are produced as soon as possible, however should you have a specific date for submission with a planning application we will do our utmost to accommodate this.

If you require a quotation for a water vole survey please send an email to us at mail@emec-ecology.co.uk including any site plans that you have available (or details and photographs of the site if applicable) with details of the proposed works, along with your contact details. Should you wish to contact us at the office please call 0115 964 4828.

Water Vole Survey Methodology

Habitat Assessment

As part of every water vole survey, the habitat suitability for this species will be assessed. This will include an assessment of the foraging resources, the suitability of the banks for burrowing and the presence of adequate cover / shelter.

Surveying for Water Vole Evidence

A water vole survey involves searching the banks of the watercourse for evidence of water vole, including: burrows, latrines, footprints, runs in the vegetation, grazed 'lawns', feeding remains and actual sightings.

Survey Timings

The water vole breeding season runs from April to September. This is the ideal time to carry out a water vole survey as during this time water voles are highly active and leave many signs, such as latrines (conspicuous piles of droppings) which can be used to confirm their presence during a survey. Habitat assessments can be undertaken over winter and surveys at that time can determine presence; although absence of water voles can only be confirmed by spring or summer surveys. To confirm presumed absence, two site visits during the optimal season may be required.

Water Vole Mitigation

Where water voles are found, the most common recommendation is to ensure all site works remain a suitable distance from the banks of the waterbody, in order to avoid disturbance / harm to this species. However, when works within the waterbody or close to the banks cannot be avoided, a number of mitigation options are available.

Displacement

Water voles require adequate cover and foraging resources within their territory. If these are removed, the habitat becomes unsuitable and water voles will move of their own accord. If a small section of a waterbody is to be directly affected, the water voles can be encouraged to move to a different area of the waterbody by the strimming of the vegetation and the maintenance of this vegetation at a low height. This is most effective when undertaken during late February to April; however this method is only suitable for very short sections of affected habitat. This action must be carried out in accordance with an ecologist that holds the relevant class licence. Translocations can only be carried out under a conservation licence from Natural England.

Translocation

When a whole waterbody or significant stretch of bankside habitat will be affected by development, or a large population of water voles is identified during the initial survey work, the removal of the water voles from the area of works by translocation may be necessary. A suitable receptor site would be required, which would be identified by further survey work and habitat assessments. Once a receptor site has been identified, a trapping scheme within the area to be affected would be implemented. This would involve the daily monitoring of the traps, removal of any water voles caught and the release of the water voles into the receptor site. Post-release monitoring would also normally be required. Translocations can only be carried out under a conservation licence from Natural England.

EMEC Land Management are able to carry out mitigation works with regards to water voles, as well as habitat enhancement measures.