Water voles get council protection

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Buckingham Town Council has agreed to support work to protect rare water voles at a recent meeting of the Environment Committee.

The Council agreed to set up an email group to enable those monitoring the voles to communicate with each other, to help protect the voles from American mink.

Dr Tom Moorhouse, Senior Researcher in Wildlife Product Demand Management at the WildCRU, Zoology, University of Oxford and author of the Water Vole Conservation Handbook, was the lead researcher on a replicated water vole reintroduction experiment run by Oxford University, with the support of Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and two farms along the Great Ouse.

Dr Moorhouse said: “We reintroduced twelve populations to local rivers from which they had been lost. This project remains a success story, one of the very few instances in British history when the declining conservation status of an endangered species has been reversed. The majority of our released populations established and spread, including the colony we released on the Great Ouse. Thanks in large part to local landowners’ diligence and enthusiasm, the population not only established but has spread to Buckingham, which is truly wonderful news.”

Water voles were once abundant on Buckinghamshire’s waterways but during the 20th Century suffered a cataclysmic decline, which sadly is still ongoing. The population reduced by 99% in two decades, largely as a result of predation by the invasive American mink. Thankfully a number of projects around the country are working hard to combat this loss and return the water vole to the rivers and canals, including two sites along the Great Ouse in Buckinghamshire. These projects desperately need ongoing support. The only methods to reverse the decline are reintroducing populations and then safeguarding those populations through mink control. Any lapse in mink control – for even a few weeks – can be fatal to a water vole colony.

Buckinghamshire’s three water vole colonies are colonies of a rare native species, which is protected by law, and they exist in Buckinghamshire entirely thanks to a lot of ongoing hard work in monitoring and controlling mink. With co-ordinated mink control in place, it is hoped that they will expand further, and thrive.

Council Ruth Newell, Chair of the Town Council’s Environment Committee, said: “This is wonderful news when water voles are the fastest declining mammal in the UK, and great to hear of the recovery of the River Great Ouse, following the catastrophic pollution incident a few years ago.”

Photos of a water vole, rat and American mink are below to help everyone spot them.

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