A major initiative to save water voles has been launched after experts warned that they could become extinct in parts of North Wales in the next ten years.
Workshops are being held for land managers, shooters, wardens and other conservationists in Gwynedd, Anglesey and Conwy to learn about trapping mink by using mink rafts, a sophisticated mink trapping device. Mink are an introduced and highly predatory species which represents the main threat to water voles and other native wildlife where the habitat is suitable.
The workshops are jointly organised by the Environment Agency Wales, local councils, Menter Môn and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the UK’s largest shooting organisation.
A scheme to eradicate mink on Anglesey, which has one of the most significant populations of water voles in Britain, is now being extended to the mainland to try and prevent mink from crossing the Menai Straits, before moving across North Wales.
In Conwy, existing water vole populations are being protected by maintaining their mink-free status through the use of mink rafts, supplied by Conwy Council through the Conwy Habitat Improvement Scheme.
BASC’s Alex Hatton said: “These workshops have been an excellent start to a long-term mink management programme that would not be possible without the support from all the different partners. The project will now spread into Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham where it will link with a similar mink management project in Cheshire.”
Rob Strachan, biodiversity officer for the Environment Agency said: “A targeted twin-track approach of mink management hand in hand with habitat restoration to safeguard the last remaining populations of the water vole across North Wales is needed. If we do not act now, the water vole will be gone within 10 years from much of North Wales.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
• Green Shoots in North Wales is a partnership project between the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), Environment Agency Wales (EAW), the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group Cymru (FWAG Cymru) and the Local Biodiversity Action Plan partnerships in North Wales. The project is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government via a CCW grant, EAW project grant and BASC fund raising activities.
• The aim of the project is to link the management carried out by people shooting over land in North Wales with conservation programmes in North Wales, principally the Local Biodiversity Action Plans. The purpose is to increase conservation action in the wider countryside and so help meet biodiversity targets.
• Mink rafts are a floating platform moored on rivers and still waters, which contain a clay ‘tracking cartridge’. Once mink tracks are detected, the cartridge is replaced with a live capture trap. Once mink are removed water vole tracks will appear on rafts which are a good indicator of successful mink removal.