The mammals are now a protected species and, although still found in and around the waterways, most vole colonies have become small and isolated. The UK water vole population has fallen by over 90% since the 1970s, largely as a result of habitat loss and predation by mink, and the Canal & River Trust's projects are aiming to help reverse the trend.
The work, funded by donations totalling over £100,000, will join up pockets of prime habitat, with our ecologists and volunteer conservationists undertaking work along the Grand Union Canal in London and Leicestershire, the Rufford Branch of Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire and the Erewash Canal in Derbyshire.
Providing ideal homes
Work is focussed on ‘greening' the canal banks, providing ideal homes for voles to burrow into, as well as some of their favourite foods. In addition to protecting this rare species, this work will benefit a wide range of other species, including water shrews, birds, dragonflies and damselflies.
Coir rolls, hazel faggots and floating islands will be planted with water-loving vegetation that is ideal for the voles to feed and nest in. By expanding their habitats and enhancing their food sources, it is hoped an increase in numbers of this endangered mammal will be seen.
Leela O'Dea, Canal & River Trust ecologist, says: “Water vole populations have rapidly declined in recent years, largely as a result of habitat loss and predation by mink. The slow moving waters of our canals and rivers can be ideal homes but colonies are often isolated. This work makes a massive difference as we can extend the water voles territory, enhance the areas where they live, and play our part in conserving and restoring their populations.”
Innovative vole ladders
The funding has been provided by players of People's Postcode Lottery who have donated £50,000 to the projects in London and Lancashire, Natural England which has donated £50,000 to the conservation work in Leicestershire and Toyota, Long Eaton Natural History Society and Broxtowe Borough Council which have donated £2,500 to the project in Derbyshire.
Today (Tuesday 19th) in London, innovative ‘vole ladders' made by the Canal & River Trust's volunteers are being installed in the canal giving an existing colony of water voles access to vital new floating islands which are ideal for them to nest and feed on. The work is being carried out at Hanwell Lock Flight in Ealing, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the most impressive lock flight in the capital. It is being undertaken by the Trust's regular volunteer party and is supported by Ealing Rangers and the Friends of Hanwell Flight who regularly meet at the lock flight to undertake a range of activity to help look after this important London landmark.