Water for Wildlife

Water vole sitting on a wooden plank in waterWater vole © Greg Hitchcock

Thanks to funding from SITA Trust and the Environment Agency, Kent Wildlife Trust has embarked upon a landmark project to help protect the endangered water vole on the North Kent Marshes.

Water voles (Arvicola amphibius) typically inhabit the well-vegetated banks of slow-moving streams and rivers, but are also found in ditches and ponds. Once a common sight along waterways in Britain, the water vole has undergone one of the most dramatic declines of any British mammal. 

The North Kent Marshes are an internationally important wetland and an important stronghold for the nationally scarce water vole, which is a UK BAP Priority Species, but to date there has been no co-ordinated effort to protect and monitor them. 

This project has been developed by a partnership consisting of Kent Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Environment Agency and the Kent and Medway Biological Records Centre. For the first time, this partnership project will address the key factors that have contributed to the decline of the water vole: degradation and loss of habitat, and predation by the American mink (Neovison vison).

This project will enable us to carry out regular surveys, enhance habitats and control the American mink to allow water vole populations to recover and expand across the marshes. It is hoped that by working hand-in-hand with like-minded organisations and private landowners we’ll be able to create a safe haven for water voles stretching from the Seasalter Levels to Ferry Marshes, north west of the Sheppey Crossing. 

Vole Reversal Update

The water vole recovery project has been running now for close to 2 years. In this time a considerable amount of data concerning water vole distribution has been collected by us and mapped by Kent and Medway Biological Records Centre.

The Water Vole Team has built upon last year’s brilliant set of data for water vole field signs by re-visiting some sites to assess how and if populations have changed or expanded. A number of new landholdings have also been surveyed to gauge whether ‘ratty’ is present at these sites and our new figure for bankside habitat surveyed is 197Km. This year 770 signs have been recorded bringing our overall total to more than 4770 field signs.

Our demonstration habitat restoration site at Ham Marshes, Faversham has been re-surveyed for water voles and appears to have been a success. The isolated population has expanded, signs of new burrows have been observed and vegetation is thriving in the areas which have been fenced from livestock.

Monitoring mink activity across the entire project area has continued over the spring and summer and little evidence of these non-native predators has been detected. This is good news for the water voles of the North Kent Marshes!!

To date more than 45 volunteers have contributed in excess of 1850 hours to surveying and monitoring work and their time and support, alongside that of our landowners in the project area has been extremely valuable in the delivery of the project!

Contact Kent Wildlife Trust’s Water for Wildlife Project Officer for more information eamonn.lawlor@kentwildlife.org.uk

For updates on the project please take a look at the SITA Trust hosted project page

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