A FURTHER 245 voles have been released into the Deadwater Burn, on the north shore of Kielder Water, by the‘Restoring Ratty’ restoration project.

This year alone, 405 water voles have been released in the Kielder area, taking the total released since June, 2017 to 965.

The voles have been bred in captivity from animals captured in the Pennines and North Yorkshire and over the border in Scotland.

The latest release earlier this month – the fourth since the project started – was supported by Northumbrian Water’s ‘Branch Out’ fund.

And staff from Kielder Water & Forest Park were able to see and handle the water voles in their holding pens prior to their release.

General manager of Kielder Waterside Gary Storey, who released his first water vole said: “This was a great experience to get involved with and our staff thoroughly enjoyed seeing this rare animal up close.

“Personally, it is the first time I’ve seen a water vole and the fact that visitors to the area will have the opportunity to look for these wonderful creatures is fantastic.

“It’s great that we’ve been able to support this project through our Branch Out scheme, which has awarded more than £300,000 in funding for projects which benefit the natural environment, wildlife and local communities since 2013.”

All the signs indicate that water voles released in June and August 2017 are thriving well, with many of them travelling up to 12km from their release sites, and potential breeding voles found around 5km from their original release sites.

In light of the latest release, academics, experts and wildlife trust representatives gathered at Hexham Abbey last Thursday for the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s first Restoring Ratty conference – providing a critical look at water vole conservation in the UK.

Also at the conference was a specialist water vole detection dog, who demonstrated her skills in the grounds of Hexham Abbey.

‘Restoring Ratty’ is a five-year partnership between Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Forestry Commission England and the Tyne Rivers Trust .

It aims to reintroduce water voles to the Kielder Water and Forest Park area of Northumberland.

The project has been funded by National Lottery players through a grant of £421,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.