A project to help endangered water voles in the South West of England has been given a boost with a grant of £10,000 allocated to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation’s (BASC) Green Shoots programme. The money will  fund a water vole population survey near Taunton in Somerset.

The survey, funded by the Environment Agency, will take place this summer across the River Tone, west of Taunton. With 200 survey points covering a catchment of 292 square kilometres, it aims to provide essential information on the status of the water vole population which can then be used to assess the effect of mink control and habitat creation.

Water vole conservation is made up of two core elements; mink control and habitat management.  In 2012 BASC created a network of volunteers to undertake mink control on the River Tone. Mink have a devastating impact on native wildlife, in particular the water vole. By using mink rafts, which record the presence of species from footprints left on a large clay pad, volunteers can detect and remove mink from the area. The second element is appropriate habitat management and creation.

The survey is part of a wider project of water vole conservation across the South West.  BASC, East Devon District Council and the Environment Agency are working together on a similar programme in East Devon on the River Axe and a project started in 2003 on the Somerset Levels will continue with the help of the Environment Agency and other partners.

Ian Danby, BASC’s head of biodiversity projects, said: “Mink can cause the local extinction of water vole populations within a few months. The work on the River Tone is part of our landscape-scale approach to water vole conservation across the South West. The BASC Green Shoots programme provides the vital habitat creation and mink control needed to allow the water vole population to thrive and I am delighted to continue our longstanding partnership with the Environment Agency.”

Laura Thain biodiversity officer for the Environment Agency said: “We are very pleased to be able to continue our valuable project work with BASC in 2013 and look forward to gaining a better understanding of the status of water vole populations on the River Tone, particularly following the flooding of 2012.”


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