Twenty endangered water voles were successfully released late yesterday into Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Potteric Carr nature reserve. The water voles were rescued from a collapsed road side ditch in rural Doncaster last autumn, ahead of essential engineering works undertaken by Doncaster Council. They were carefully captured under licence from Natural England by Ecus’ ecologists, and spent the winter in a special water vole hotel run by M&H Ecology prior to their release.
Potteric Carr was chosen for its proximity and mosaic of rich wetland habitat. New habitat, including a section of ditch was created at the reserve by Ecus’ Environmental Contracting team and funded by Doncaster Council. The site, which has now matured, was landscaped then specially planted to provide deep water and burrowing banks to provide the voles with shelter, cover and food. Water voles at Potteric Carr will also live safely in the reedbeds making rugby ball shaped nests out of old reed stems.
Jim Horsfall, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Reserves Officer for South Yorkshire said: “We are delighted to offer a home for rare water voles and to work with Doncaster Council and Ecus Environmental Consultants to boost the population at Potteric Carr. The decision to move animals from an existing habitat is never taken lightly but water voles adapt readily to a new site if the conditions are right. This was the only option as the road at Sykehouse had to be repaired.”
Associate Director at Ecus, Stuart Silver said: “This is a great example of what can be achieved through collaborative working, and the willingness of all parties to work together has provided the best possible outcome for the water voles ensuring they now have a viable and long term future.”
Research published by the Wildlife Trusts earlier this year revealed that water vole distribution has declined dramatically. There has been a 30% decline in the places where these river mammals once lived across England and Wales during the survey period 2006 - 2015. Declines are as a result of habitat loss, pollution of waterways, industrialisation of agriculture, housing development and predation by American mink which were brought to the UK for fur farming.
Over the last decade, conservationists’ efforts to control mink in Yorkshire have allowed water vole numbers to start rising again. Potteric Carr has had fewer reports of mink and surveys for water voles have shown them to be present and expanding to a newly created area on Loversall Carr. A reduction in mink has also had a positive impact on other wildlife with fewer bird eggs and chicks stolen from nests.
The Potteric voles will continue to be monitored so the long term success of the scheme can be measured but the project team believe the voles now stand the best chance of survival due to their newly created habitat. They will boost the resident population of voles and hopefully spread throughout the reserve.
Cllr Chris McGuinness, Cabinet for Communities, the Voluntary Sector and Environment, said: “I am delighted we have created a new home for these water voles at Potteric Carr. Water voles are a protected species and it was vital that we do all we can to maintain their numbers here in Doncaster. I am sure they will enjoy their new habitat and settle in well.”