Species Action Plans
The water vole ( Arvicola terrestris ) is found throughout Britain but the population has suffered a long term decline since 1900. There has been a period of accelerated loss since the 1980s; a national survey in 1989-90 failed to find voles in 67% of the sites where they were previously recorded and this trend is likely to continue. The stronghold is generally in the south and east of Britain, with populations in the north and west scarce and fragmented.
The water vole was once common along vegetated river banks, canals, ditches, lakes and ponds. Water voles are herbivores, feeding on the lush stems and leaves of waterside plants. Over the winter they survive on a diet of the roots and bark of woody species such as willow, as well as rhizomes, bulbs and roots of herbaceous plants. In autumn they will eat berries and fruits.
There is a healthy population of water voles in east Yorkshire. The population in West Yorkshire is currently under threat from both habitat loss and predation by mink. In comparison the water vole population of Rotherham in South Yorkshire has not been affected by such predation and are more numerous in this area.
West Yorkshire Ecology have more water vole records for the east of West Yorkshire but this may reflect the amount of survey work carried out in Leeds and Wakefield rather than the true status of the population.
A few years ago, mink were set free from mink farms and have established themselves throughout Calderdale’s watercourses. Water voles have been reported from Cromwell Bottom, Rochdale Canal, Hebden Water, Warland Weir and Walsden Water in recent years. Recent records of water voles from upland parts of the Peak District and Kirklees suggest that water voles are under-recorded in upland parts of Calderdale.
Current factors causing loss or decline
- Habitat loss and degradation due to insensitive engineering and maintenance works on rivers and ditches, urbanisation of the flood plain, heavy grazing pressure of waterside habitats, lack of or inappropriate management of river banks
- Disturbance of riparian habitats by recreational activities
- Predation by mink, rats (taking young) and domestic cats is likely to be a significant cause of population decline in Calderdale
- Pollution from industrial and agricultural based effluents and insecticides
- Poisoning by rodenticides used to control the brown rat (often unintentional because water vole are easily mis-identified as rats).
- A national Species Action Plan has been prepared with targets to ensure that water voles are present throughout their 1970s range, by the year 2010 and to maintain the current distribution and abundance of the species in the UK
- The Vincent Wildlife Trust conducted a national survey in 1989-90
- WYE have commissioned a survey of water voles in West Yorkshire during 2000-2002
- Countryside Stewardship Scheme for Watersides allows for the creation of habitats suitable for water voles.
The water vole is currently protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct any place or structure which water voles use for shelter or protection or to disturb them while using such a place.
- Maintain the current distribution and abundance of the water vole in Calderdale
|1. Policy and Legislation||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Uphold the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), Section 9(4) in respect of the protection of water voles||EA||CMBC (CAFU), CMBC (DC), EN, WYE, WYP|
|Consider the impact on water voles when assessing planning applications||CMBC (DC)||CMBC (CAFU), EA|
|Take opportunities through the planning system to restore or create water vole habitats. Explore possibilities of long term management agreements||CMBC (DC)||CMBC (CAFU), EA|
|Identify and designate key colonies as SEGIs||WYE||CMBC (CAFU), CMBC (DP), YWT|
|Promote wider awareness of the MAFF ‘Code of Good Agricultural Practise for Protection of Water’||DEFRA / RDS||FWAG, EA|
|2. Site safeguard and management||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Include the needs of water voles in the management of SSSIs or other designated wildlife sites||EN||CMBC (CAFU), BW, CLA, NFU|
|Avoid damage of existing or potential water vole habitat by development, drainage or maintenance work such as culverting, channelisation, sheet piling or other hard bank protection works||EA||BW, CMBC (CAFU,DC), WYE|
|Explore opportunities for creating suitable habitats under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and planning gain for restoring watercourses to a more natural structure||DEFRA / RDS||FWAG, CMBC (CAFU), EA, CLA, NFU, YWT|
|Produce management briefs for key colonies, to include measures to protect and expand the population.||CMBC (CAFU)||EA, EN, HSS, UCWN, WYE, YWT|
|3. Species Management and Protection||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Establish the effects of mink predation and encourage their control where appropriate||EA||CMBC (CAFU), YWT|
|Discourage the illegal use of rodenticides and herbicides where water voles would be affected||DEFRA||EA, YWT|
|Take opportunities to enhance / create water vole habitats near to existing colonies||EA||CMBC (CAFU), BW, YWT|
|Seek funding to carry out conservation work and habitat creation||CMBC (CAFU)||All partners|
|4. Advisory||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Promote the benefits of watercourse buffer strips to landowners and managers, including their value as water vole habitat||FWAG||EN, EA, CMBC (CAFU), YWT|
|Provide advice to relevant authorities and owners on conservation of the species||EA||CMBC (CAFU), EN, FWAG, HSS, UCWN, YWT|
|5. Research and Monitoring||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Conduct surveys to establish the distribution of both the water vole and mink and identify key populations of water voles for conservation||WYE||EA, EN, CMBC (CAFU), HSS, UCWN, TNHS|
|Pass information gathered from surveying and monitoring to the NBN||WYE||CMBC (CAFU)|
|6. Regional||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Work with neighbouring local authorities and regional partners to improve opportunities for joint working||EA||BW, CMBC (CAFU), EN, WYE, YWT|
|7. Communication and publicity||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Promote the water vole through the local press, leaflets and displays. Stress the difference between water voles and rats and the effects of inappropriate works and human disturbance on river banks||CMBC (CAFU)||ATC, EA, EN, YWT, HSS, TNHS, UCWN|
|Raise awareness of the damage caused by mink to water voles and other wildlife||CMBC (CAFU)||EN, FWAG, WYE, YWT|
|Key to abbreviations|
|ATC||Alternative Technology Centre|
|BAP||Biodiversity Action Plan|
|CLA||County Landowners and Business Association|
|CMBC (CAFU)||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Countryside and Forestry Unit)|
|CMBC (DC)||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development Control)|
|CMBC (DP)||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development and Policy)|
|DEFRA||Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs|
|FWAG||Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group|
|HSS||Halifax Scientific Society|
|NFU||National Farmers Union|
|RDS||Rural Development Service|
|TNHS||Todmorden Natural History Society|
|UCWN||Upper Calderdale Wildlife Network|
|WYE||West Yorkshire Ecology|
|WYP||West Yorkshire Police|
|YWT||Yorkshire Wildlife Trust|