Search

'Ratty' finds a fenland refuge

PUBLISHED: 10:50 26 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:05 22 October 2010

Water voles have been found in drains and ditches in a remote corner of East Anglia.

Water voles have been found in drains and ditches in a remote corner of East Anglia.

A colony of one of the country's most endangered mammals has been discovered in a remote corner of East Anglia.

A colony of one of the country's most endangered mammals has been discovered in a remote corner of East Anglia.

The water vole - "Ratty" from Wind in the Willows - was once found along almost every river and stream but has disappeared from large areas of Britain.

Now it seems to have found a sanctuary away from its main predator - the American mink - among the network of drainage ditches in the Cambridgeshire fens, close to the border with Norfolk.

Staff at the Wildlife Trust went round some 45 miles of ditches near March and Chatteris by foot and canoe last year, and found a national stronghold in Ransonmoor and Curf Fen.

The vole population had been devastated by intensive land management and when mink escaped or were released from fur farms.

With underwater exits from their burrows, the voles had evolved to escape from stoats and weasels, but had little defence against semi-aquatic mink which could follow them in to the water.

The survey, which backed up findings by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Water Vole Project, found a widely spread population of voles in the smaller drains and ditches managed by Internal Drainage Boards.

No mink were seen in the ditches, suggesting that voles can recover their population in the heart of the fens, away from mink routes on the main rivers and drains.

"I am delighted with the results," said Amanda Proud, project officer with the Water Vole Recovery Project.

"The fens provide a major refuge for water voles from which they will hopefully re-colonise areas, so long as management of watercourses is sensitive and mink continue to decline."

Duncan Boughton, chairman of Ransonmoor Internal Drainage Board, said: "It is pleasing to see from this survey that good management of drainage ditches for water control and the conservation of a nationally endangered mammal can go hand-in-hand."

Landowners now been advised

how to manage their watercourses

so as not to disturb water vole burrows.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press