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Water voles "battling to survive" in the North-East, say conservationists
CONSERVATIONISTS say water voles are "battling to survive" in the North-East, with numbers down by more than a fifth.
The results of research come despite encouraging signs from a number of waterways in the region, according to the Durham Wildlife Trust which is now appealing for help to record the elusive mammal.
The trust says that while there are some strongholds where water voles continue to thrive, the species remains vulnerable to further decline and extinctions.
It blames the problem on long-term habitat loss, mink predation and extreme weather events, including last year’s spring drought.
Durham Wildlife Trust are involved in projects to establish where populations remain and are looking at what needs to be done to help populations re-connect and expand across larger areas.
Surveyors look for droppings, feeding stations and burrows in order to detect their presence along water courses.
Surveys show reasonably healthy populations in South Tyneside and Weardale that buck the national trend, with the River Don in South Tyneside supporting one of the best urban water vole populations in the North-East.
Trust Director Jim Cokill said: “This regional stronghold can be accounted for in part by the ongoing work of Durham Wildlife Trust and South Tyneside Council.
"Not only are we protecting existing habitats, but also working to connect isolated populations by improving riparian habitat management and creating new high quality wetlands, backwaters, and ponds, where water voles can take refuge from extreme weather events.
“The predatory prowess of the American Mink and habitat fragmentation still threaten populations in most parts of the Durham Wildlife Trust area, however.
“Creating and maintaining large-scale good quality habitat is key to ensuring the species’ survival and reintroduction schemes, combined with mink control programmes and habitat management are providing a lifeline for this much-loved species.
“To help guide our work the Trust needs up to date information on water vole distribution and information on sightings will be gratefully received.”
On September 21 Durham Wildlife Trust will be holding an event at Killhope Lead Mining Museum in Weardale from 2pm to 4 pm. In partnership with Northumbria Mammal Group, the trust will be looking for signs of water voles and red squirrels.
The event is free, but booking is essential as places are limited. Contact the Trust on 0191-5843112. You can also report water vole sightings on the same number.
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