The water vole population in Northamptonshire is under threat and people are being asked to take part in the Canal and River Trust’s Great Nature Watch to help protect them.
The Trust is asking people to visit their local canal, river, reservoir or lake in the county and record sightings of water voles, as well as all the other wildlife they see. It will help the trust to monitor the wide variety of wildlife in the waterways.
Analysis by the Canal and River Trust of water vole sightings dating back to 1970 has highlighted a steady decline in water voles over the last 45 years, with the last 15 years showing the most dramatic decline and the species disappearing from 15 counties and districts.
Between 1970 and 1999 water voles were spotted on nearly 269 miles or 53 different locations, of our 2,000 miles of waterways. Between the years 2000 and 2015 this dramatically decreased, with sightings on just 141 miles, or 38 locations, a reduction of nearly 50 per cent, with Northamptonshire seeing a big decline.
The decline is largely due to habitat loss from development, agriculture and pollution, as well as the threat from American mink, which have bred since escaping, and sometimes being deliberately released, from from fur farms in the 1970s.
Mark Robinson, national ecologist for the Canal and River Trust, said: “Water voles are synonymous with British watercourses, they are the largest of the vole family and widely recognised thanks to Ratty from Wind in the Willows. But they are one of the most endangered species in the country and are fast becoming a rare sight on Britain’s canals and rivers. While there have been positive steps across the country to reintroduce them and protect their habitats, by the trust and other organisations, we have to do more if we are going to stop the water vole from going the way of the dodo.
“By taking part in the Great Nature Watch you can help us monitor the numbers of water voles and in fact, all species living on waterways.”
Records can be submitted by downloading the Trust’s free mobile app: eNatureWatch (or search Canal & River Trust in the Apple App Store/Google Play Store). Anyone can take part and record as many sightings as they like between now and October.
For more information visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/great-nature-watch.