Water voles have been in decline for the last 20 years, suffering loss of habitat and predation from American Mink. Water voles are now protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act - it is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place used for shelter or protection.
Therefore for the many construction sites on which water voles are present, mitigation measures are utilised to safeguard water voles. These measures can include leaving corridors of undeveloped habitat along watercourses, implementing buffer zones around actively used water vole habitat and protecting and monitoring water quality during construction activities.
Being the largest vole species in Britain, water voles have quite an appetite; consuming around 160g of vegetation each day, weighing in around 80% of their body weight. Their menu is very varied and they aren’t very fussy, munching around 227 types of plant including grasses, rushes sedges and even rhizomes and tree bark in winter. In Scotland, water voles are far darker compared to their brown southern counterparts, having a black fur.
Mostly residing on water courses as the name would suggest it would surprise you how far they roam. One of the UK largest populations of water voles wasn’t found near water, but close to a housing estate in Glasgow. On investigation they were living in a rough area of grassland, with some even inhabiting the side of a motorway. Studies found the water voles were still creating burrow systems and foraging in a similar way to their bankside relatives.
This highlights the need for water vole surveys in a variety of areas and not just in water courses.