If you have water voles on your site we can survey to confirm their presence and provide mitigation measures to help you manage them
The largest of the four British vole species, the water vole is legally protected in the UK under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Ecology Consultancy offers advice on water vole conservation and protection, adhering to best practice.
Water voles have undergone the most dramatic and serious decline of any British mammal during the 20th Century. Now absent from Devon and Cornwall, their distribution throughout their current range is patchy, though they can be locally common. Introduction of the American mink has been a major cause of their decline, in addition to the destruction of their habitat.
Water voles are found in slow flowing rivers, streams, ditches and around lakes, reed-beds, marshes and ponds with relatively steep banks, usually in rural areas. They are also found in uplands areas and heathland.
Water voles are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Water voles are protected against intentional killing, capture or injury and intentional or reckless disturbance, obstruction, damage or destruction or their burrows. If water voles or their burrows are found after works start, all works must stop immediately to avoid breaking the law.
Only ecologists licensed to survey for water voles may handle them.
Breaking the law can lead to fines of up to £5,000 per offence and/or potential prison sentences of up to six months. Damaging any habitat that contains a water vole or its burrow can lead to prosecution. Vehicles implicated in an offence can be impounded and both the company and/or the individual(s) concerned, can be held liable.
Water voles are species of principal importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, and local authorities and other public bodies have a legal duty to take their conservation into account. They are also a material consideration in the planning process.
Development sites likely to be inhabited by water voles must be surveyed and mitigation projects that require trapping can only be managed by licensed ecologists.
Our ecologists can advise on all aspects of water vole conservation from survey timings, river corridor management and mitigation.
Projects we have worked on include:
Water vole surveys are conducted between March and September and look for field signs such as burrows, droppings, feeding stations, runs and footprints. Water voles generally live in burrows that can extend up to 2m from the water’s edge. Females may create ‘lawns’ of grazed vegetation around their burrows; this usually indicates young are present. Although mainly active during the day they are rarely seen. They are active all year round but are markedly less active during the winter.
From specific surveying projects over a small area for a developer, to mitigation projects and habitat manipulation with infrastructure companies, we have the experience and expertise to help you ensure your water vole survey is completed efficiently. We follow all relevant good practice guidelines and are pragmatic in our approach.
Due to their scarcity and vulnerability, a conservation licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) is required to handle or translocate water voles. It is essential that all potential water vole habitats are fully surveyed prior to planning consent being given to avoid the risk of fines.
The Ecology Consultancy works regularly on water vole conservation, habitat manipulation and mitigation strategies.
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'“The Ecology Consultancy water vole report was impressive and the recommendations were well received by the Environment Agency who gave us consent to proceed with our development.”'
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