The water vole is a rare and threatened species in Devon and nationally. Its numbers fell by 90% between 1989 and 1998.
One reason is the close resemblance to the brown rat, which has meant that many thousands of water voles have been lost mistakenly through pest eradication – a greater understanding of this important species and how to identify it is urgently required.
Water voles (along with beavers) are ecosystem engineers, dramatically changing aquatic plant communities thanks to their creation of burrow networks that dry out the surrounding wet soil and promote soil microbial activity.
This project is a partnership between Devon Wildlife Trust and Devon Environment Foundation to provide vital data for the Devon Biodiversity Record Centre about water vole populations in the lower Avon Valley, South Devon.
The project seeks to:
- authenticate historic records of water vole at two Devon Birds reserves to set a baseline for current populations
- map species activity within and directly adjacent to these locations to inform sympathetic management of these sites
- develop and deliver a citizen science survey project across the wider landscape in the Lower Avon Valley
- attract a diverse selection of community volunteers from various ages and backgrounds
- provide opportunities to enhance volunteer skills, and broaden the resource available locally to maintain and further develop the reach of this project
- trial an approach which can be scaled up and replicated in other areas of Devon where releases may be planned, for example Braunton Burrows in North Devon and the DEF’s Hayes Meadow Water Vole Release in West Devon.