The water vole is fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and is listed as a priority species for conservation on the UK BAP. Sadly, the water vole is considered to be extinct in Cornwall. Therefore it is not normally deemed necessary to undertake a water vole survey for buildings and developments within Cornwall. This may change in the future if conservation efforts to protect this species are successful.
The water vole is affectionately known as ‘ratty’ from the Wind in Willows books, but is far from a rat. Unlike rats, water voles have a chubby appearance, with short stubby noses, round furry ears and short thin furry tails.
WATER VOLE FACTS!
- Water vole numbers have declined so dramatically that they are now extinct in Cornwall
- Loss of habitat and predation from the non-native American Mink that escaped from fur farms have been a huge factor towards the water voles dwindling population
- Water vole populations are now so sparse and fragmented that a single incident could wipe them out in one area forever
- Water voles live along canal banks, rivers, lakes and marshes
- Water voles have a very short life span of up to 3 years. They do not tend to survive 2 winters.
Will I need a water vole survey?
If your development is in Cornwall, you will not be required to have a water vole survey due to them being extinct in this county. Further studies, evidence and possible re-introduction may change this requirement in the future though.
Elsewhere in the country, a water vole survey may be needed if the development is likely to affect watercourses or waterbodies with suitable marginal vegetation. A survey will consist of a walkover of the banks of the watercourse in question, assessing the potential of the habitat to support water voles and searching for the field signs.
* Photo has been kindly supplied with permission of use by Milos Andera
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