The Great Water Vole Comeback!
The BASC mink control programme was started on the Somerset Levels in 2003. Led by BASC volunteers, wildfowling clubs, and shoot syndicates, they were quickly joined by the RSPB, fishery owners, county wildlife trusts and national nature reserve staff and helpers. The long-term partners were the Environment Agency and Natural England. The trapping and monitoring area stretched from Gordano on the Bristol Channel to Martock in the south.
The result of this effort has been quite dramatic – wildfowl and waterside birds have had a respite from mink predation, and water voles have made a great come-back, re-occupying areas where they had been extinct for several decades. At the outset it must be stressed that BASC members have taken the leading role in what has been described by the Environment Agency and other conservation bodies as an outstanding conservation success story. As one RSPB staff member said, “it shows that the ‘C’ in BASC really means something!”
As a result of this success, the SITA Trust provided the funding to extend the operation southwards through the headwaters of the River Parrett and onwards down the Brit and other West Dorset streams to the south coast.
The South Somerset and West Dorset Water Vole Project was launched in November 2011 and was scheduled to run for three-years. Now it’s time to look back at what has been achieved so far, and to look forward to the hoped-for legacy of the project.
So at the project end we now have detailed information on our water vole population, a strong volunteer force to work into the future and reporting their information back to BASC and both Dorset and Somerset Wildlife Trusts, and a greater understanding among all interested parties of how to encourage and protect this vulnerable species.
So what of the future? BASC has applied to the Hertiage Lottery Fund to extend the project and to expand our activities to cover the whole of Dorset. It will build on our successes since 2003 and establish Somerset and Dorset’s water vole population as one of national importance. This has been a great conservation success story for BASC and I hope it continues!
British Association for Shooting & Conservation