Water voles need your help

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Water vole
Water vole

WILDLIFE lovers across the region have been invited to do their bit to protect one of the country’s endangered species.

Water voles, once a common sight along the country’s riverbanks and waterways, have experienced a dramatic decline.

In fact, over the last century, the water vole has experienced the most severe decline of any wild mammal in the UK.

The sharp drop in numbers is though to be due to the intensification of agriculture, pollution of watercourses and, more recently, predation by non-native American mink.

Two years ago, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), launched the first National Water Vole Monitoring Programme.

This year, more volunteers are needed in the North-East to survey sites in support of the monitoring programme.

In 2016, PTES received data from 404 sites across England, Scotland and Wales, of which 185 had water vole signs present.

The distribution of positive sites was skewed towards Scotland, partly due to the large number of sites surveyed there, but encouragingly, there were occupied sites across the UK from Cornwall to the Highlands.

PTES is keen to ensure all regions have enough sites surveyed to get a clear picture of water vole numbers across the UK.

Volunteers are asked to survey one of the nearly 900 pre-selected sites across the UK, recording all sightings and signs of water voles along a 500m length of riverbank during May.

Sites that are already being surveyed can also be registered with the programme.

Though no prior experience is required, volunteers will need to learn how to identify water vole field signs.

Key species monitoring and data officer at PTES Emily Thomas said: “We’ve had a fantastic response over the last two years and the data collected so far is invaluable.

“With the help of volunteers, we will continue building a robust dataset which will be used to monitor year on year trends in the water vole population, to establish any further changes and to help guide future conservation efforts.”

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