Water Vole Reintroduction at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

Monday 8th June 2015

Vole prior to release by Gareth ChristianVole prior to its release by Gareth Christian

In 2011 the idea of reintroducing water voles to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve was first suggested and now, three years later, we are delighted to have recently reintroduced fifty of them.

Back in 2011 the idea of reintroducing water voles to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve was first suggested. Following 3 years of monitoring and habitat enhancement work, funded by Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust (ICET), the site was finally ready to receive around fifty water voles last week, which had been captive breed by Wildwood.

The habitat work has mainly involved coppicing sections of the river and lake banks, where overhanging trees were shading out the grasses, sedges, reeds and rushes which make up a large part of the voles diet, they also provide cover when the water voles are moving around.  In some of the coppiced areas we have also been planting to speed up the colonisation process.
Sevenoaks Area Warden Paul Glanfield said: 

From start to finish this project has been a real joint effort between KWT, Wildwood and ICET. I would especially like to thank all our hard working volunteer teams who have been involved in every aspect of the project.

Water voles have undergone a long term decline in Britain and have disappeared from 94% of their former sites. Records show that the water vole was once common along the River Darent.

Vicki Breakell, the Conservation Officer from Wildwood said “We are thrilled to be able to work with Kent Wildlife Trust on this amazing project to restore water voles back to this area of Kent. Projects like this are at the very heart of Wildwood’s work as a conservation charity and we are delighted to be able to help in the fight to protect water voles for future generations.”

A method called soft release has been used and this is where the voles are placed into pens with supplementary feed while they acclimatise to the environment.  This has proven to be more successful than simply releasing all the animals at once.

David feeding volesOnce the voles have had a chance to settle in a survey will be carried out looking for nibbled vegetation, burrows and latrines, to see how far they have spread from their release areas. Another aspect of the project, funded by the Rivers and Wetlands Community Days, was to erect stock fence along a section of the Darent on the neighbouring farmland to stop the vegetation being grazed and trampled all the way to the water’s edge. It is hoped that Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve will act as a stronghold from which the voles can recolonize the river banks and adjacent ditches.

So next time you’re at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve listen out for a “plop” it might just be Ratty.