WILDLIFE charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling for volunteers across Coventry and the West Midlands to record water vole sightings and signs along local riverbanks, canals and other inland waterways.
This survey, which is part of PTES’ National Water Vole Monitoring Programme, is running from April 15 – June 15 to help conservationists find where water voles are living, how their populations are changing each year, and most importantly, where they are in most need of help.
Water voles used to be a familiar feature of Britain’s inland water networks, but loss of suitable habitat and the arrival of non-native American mink in the 1980s and 1990s drove them out of their former riverbank and waterway homes.
Henrietta Pringle, key species monitoring & data officer at PTES, said: “Water voles are Britain’s fastest declining mammal – a staggering 90% of the population was lost between the 1980s and 1990s alone – so they really need our help.
“Due to lockdown last spring, we were unable to survey water voles, meaning we now have a gap in our dataset. Finding out where water voles are is crucial to their conservation, so now more than ever we need feet on the ground to help us look for these adorable riverside residents to see how they’re faring.”
To take part, individuals, ‘bubbles’ or households are asked to select one of the 850 pre-selected sites close to their home, which can be found online.
Volunteers are asked to walk along the riverbank looking for sightings of water voles, listening out for the characteristic ‘plop’ as they enter the water, or spotting the signs they leave behind, such as footprints, droppings, latrines or bankside burrows. Surveyors are also asked to record any sightings or signs of American mink and otters, both predators of water voles.
No previous experience is needed, as there are detailed survey guidelines and online training materials to help you identify water voles and their signs. To find out more and to take part in the survey, visit ptes.org/watervoles
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