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Water Vole Surveys

Like many species in the UK, Water Voles have experienced serious declines over the past few decades as a direct result of man. The main reason for this decline was the introduction of American Mink. Farmed in the UK for fur, Mink were released in the 50s and 60s causing a 98% decrease in the Water Vole population. Since then numbers have begun to increase again due to continued conservational efforts.

The Water Vole is a semi-aquatic species, most commonly found along the banks of rivers, streams, drainage ditches, lakes and ponds. The optimum habitat would be a slow moving water body that maintains a consistent height all year round.


This species is very rarely seen. Instead surveyors will look for signs of Water Vole activity such as; latrines, feeding signs, burrows, footprints, runs, and the distinctive sound of Water Voles entering the water. Should Water Voles be found at your site, appropriate mitigation must be put in place in order to prevent an offence being committed. This may be as simple as timing works when it will have the least impact on the Water Voles.

Water Voles and the Law:

Water Voles are afforded full protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Under this piece of legislation, it is an offence to:

  • Intentionally kill, injure or take (capture) a Water Vole.

  • Possess or control a live or dead Water Vole, or any part of a Water Vole

  • Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which Water Voles use for shelter or protection or disturb Water Voles while they are using such a place.

  • Sell, offer for sale or advertise for sale, live or dead Water Voles.

Water Vole survey timeline

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Paul Elcoat, MD at Elcoat Ltd

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