Water Vole Re-introduction: Phase 2

In these difficult and very worrying times it is nice to provide some positive news to cheer all those who have found local wildlife such inspiration in recent weeks. Early June will see a further 160 Water Voles introduced by the Box Moor Trust in Hemel Hempstead and Bourne End. This is part of a project to bring this nationally endangered species back to the area for the first time in 40 years.

The first Phase last September concentrated on the Bulbourne in Boxmoor and Gadespring Cressbeds. Although there was higher than expected degree of predation by Herons, a number of pairs of voles bred and and there are now several promising signs of their presence throughout Boxmoor. Phase 2 is aimed further afield in Apsley and Bourne End so that new genes will be introduced  that will aid the chances of a spread towards Berkhamsted and up the Gade to Water End. By encouraging a wide and flourishing population it is hoped that these iconic little mammals, featured in the famous book Wind in the Willows, can establish a sustainable base in the Bulbourne and Gade Valleys.

The voles in this phase are mainly being introduced into 5 local fishing lakes with the co-operation of fishery owners and managers.  Voles will also be put in the Gade near B&Q and in the canal at Bourne End. Volunteers  will feed them in temporary pens for a few days until releasing them to fend for themselves. If you see any of these wooden pens then please leave them undisturbed.

Many residents will not have seen a water vole so could easily think they are rats.  The Voles have short furry tails half the length of their body, smaller ears, deep brown fur all over, a rounded rather than pointed face and a dumpy look. So if you are lucky enough to live near a water course please do not think these harmless creatures need the attention of  a pest control officer.

The main reason that water voles have disappeared Is predation by non native Mink since 1970. A lot of work has taken place recently in liaison with Martin Ketcher at the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust to monitor and control mink and there have been no recent reports which is good news. If you see a mink locally can you please report its location to the Trust by emailing [email protected] Also, we would like reports of any water voles seen in the canal or local  rivers and streams. 

 

This excellent picture of a young vole born at Gadespring,  taken by  Box Moor Trust volunteer, Mike Dunks, shows how they look very different from a rat.

 

Whilst all the work on this project is carried out by volunteers and Box Moor Trust staff, the supply of the voles themselves from a company in Devon needs to  be funded by grants and donations from local residents. In fact the whole project began with a welcome contribution from the estate of a local artist Sheila Jackman. With coronavirus understandably focussing everyone’s attention such funding is very hard to attract at present. If any individual or local company would like to contribute then please contact the Trust.

The long term ambition is for landowners further down the Gade Valley and into the Colne to be encouraged by this project to carry out a similar project. If carried out in time, that could help isolated and very vulnerable populations in the Ver and other parts of the Colne catchment to survive and flourish. For more information on how this project has been put together please contact David Kirk at the Trust.