Water vole (c) Gordon Forrest
Water voles were once a common sight along Worcestershire's river banks but their numbers have dropped dramatically and their only known Worcestershire population is in Bromsgrove. We’re working with Bromsgrove District Council to protect this remaining population and increase its chances of survival.
Mirroring losses elsewhere in Britain the decline of Worcestershire’s water voles has been caused by habitat loss and predation by the invasive American Mink (Mustela vison). The Mink’s rapid colonization along the waterways of the county has led to decimated vole populations. Surviving colonies are often in locations that are either inaccessible or un desirable for the predators. This is one theory as to why the population in Bromsgrove remains. The presence of regular traffic, dog walkers, culverts, and public usage is usually a challenge for wildlife but in this case it may be the Vole’s saving grace as it has kept the mink at bay.
To improve the water voles’ chances Bromsgrove District Council are leading efforts to improve habitats along the town’s watercourses to ensure that the expanding vole populations have suitable bankside habitat in which to spread. Habitat enhancements include the creation of features such as backwaters and re-naturalising inhospitable concrete canal-like channels making the banks more hospitable for the voles' usually subterranean homes. This also increases the suitable foraging areas for these herbivorous critters whose diet is typically varied for a rodent, being mainly made up of grasses, roots, fruits including wind-fall apples, which they are particularly fond of. Amazingly populations elsewhere in Britain have also been observed supplementing their diet by tackling frogs and eating only their legs al la cuisine Francaise!
It is believed that by dealing with the invasive predation and maintaining suitable habitat the voles could once again thrive in the county. Of course this places even more value and importance on the last remaining survivors if we are dependant upon them to re-populate areas from which the species has previously disappeared.