In Somerset, with its famous levels and rhynes, there is an abundance of wildlife and our surveys have identified many protected species along the route of the new connection, including water voles. These elusive mammals, forever immortalised as ‘Ratty’ in Kenneth Grahams’ Wind in the Willows, were once a common sight on waterways throughout the region. However, predation from invasive American mink combined with habitat loss and fragmentation have resulted in the water vole now being considered one of Britain’s most endangered wild mammals.
Water voles and their burrows are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and we are working hard to ensure we protect their habitat while we carry out our work. Wherever possible we are avoiding working in areas where there are water voles present. Where this isn’t possible our specialists, following guidance from Natural England, have developed detailed mitigation plans that include removing riverside vegetation and encouraging the voles to relocate, and then removing their burrows when they are safely out of harm’s way to prevent the animals’
return once works start.
These conservation activities must be carried out between mid-February and mid-April and must be carried out under a special licence.
As well as mitigating the impact of our project on the local water vole population, we are helping a local charity to protect water voles in the long-term – find out more.