Wel­com­ing water voles

Somerset Life - - INSIDERS -

For the first time in 30 years one of Bri­tain’s most en­dear­ing yet rare mam­mals, the water vole, could soon be spot­ted swim­ming along the river­banks of its for­mer home on the Na­tional Trust’s Hol­ni­cote Es­tate.

In Septem­ber 150 water voles were rein­tro­duced to the Exmoor es­tate, with a fur­ther 150 due to be re­leased in spring 2019. They are Bri­tain’s fastest de­clin­ing land mam­mal but now these much loved crea­tures are be­ing given a whole new start in a healthy en­vi­ron­ment, where they should breed and flour­ish. The trust be­lieves that water voles can once more be­come an im­por­tant and in­te­gral part of the whole ecol­ogy of Hol­ni­cote.

They will be closely mon­i­tored to see how they are set­tling in. The streams and banks can be seen from many walks on the es­tate and, as water voles are ac­tive dur­ing the day, they may well be en­coun­tered go­ing about their busi­ness. Rangers, spe­cial ‘vole-un­teers’ and stu­dents will be join­ing forces, us­ing sim­ple field signs to record their pres­ence and be­hav­iour. These in­clude ac­tual sight­ings and ‘plop­ping’ sounds as they dive in, drop­pings, vole runs and bur­rows, and grass blades nib­bled off at dis­tinc­tive 45 de­gree an­gles.

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