Endangered Water Voles to be Reintroduced to Northumberland

First Posted: Jan 28, 2013 06:44 AM EST

Water voles are one of the legally protected species in Britain, and conservationists are taking necessary measures to protect these endangered rodents.

Conservationists from the Kielder Water & Forest Park plan on reintroducing water voles to Northumberland, where its population was wiped away due to the presence of the natural predators, minks. They were last spotted in the 1970s.

"Areas like Kielder Burn and the North Tyne are good water vole habitats so we have a two part plan which will hopefully see them return to former haunts.  Water voles have suffered big declines across England, so returning them to the forest is something we are extremely keen to see happen," Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said in a news statement.

The Northumberland Wildlife Trust together with Tyne Rivers Trust will carry out a two-year project to survey the forest and check for the evidence of mink remains, while also tracing the water vole population.  Secondly, they plan a future scheme which would see wild water voles relocated to Kielder as part of a wider North East reintroduction project.

Residing over the banks of low-lying rivers, water voles are mostly found in Europe. The burrows of these strong swimmers consist of several compartments in order to avoid flooding. Often mistaken as rats, the water voles mainly feed on grass and waterside vegetation.

According to the reports, there has been a decrease in the mink population in recent years. One of the reasons stated is the growing population of otters, as the two species cannot co-exist in the same place.

On receiving the funds that will support the survey, researchers will check for the mink population based on sightings and droppings, and using floating rafts which minks climb aboard to investigate, leaving behind tell-tale footprints. 

A similar project had been carried out in the Cairngorms, which saw the water vole making an "impressive comeback".

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