The UK’s largest shooting organisation, BASC, is out to help the water vole.
A series of surveys to gauge the success of a project to help boost water vole numbers in North Wales will be held this summer. Water voles are in serious decline in many parts of Britain. The surveys will provide the benchmark for the future conservation of water voles in North Wales. The surveys have been organised by BASC and will be undertaken across North Wales as part of a three-year project, funded by Natural Resources Wales to tackle invasive non-native species including the American mink. BASC members are being asked to help with the surveys.
The first surveys will take place on 28 and 29 July to enable attendees of the water vole survey training day, run by BASC and Gwynedd County Council and hosted by the Bodfuan shoot on 6 July, to practice their skills. Survey sites will include Natural Resources Wales’ Cors Geirch National Nature Reserve. Further surveys are planned for August 6, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26. Previous experience is not essential as training can be given.
Jono Garton, who runs the Bodfuan Shoot and is a member of BASC Council, said; “Mink prey on water voles and are considered to be the main reason behind the dramatic crash in water vole numbers since the early 1990s. Female mink especially are able to get down into water vole burrows and eat both adults and young. Mink also feed on rabbits and on ground nesting birds, with some evidence that they impact on juvenile salmonid populations too.”
Nick Thomas, Protected Sites Manager, North and Mid Wales at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said; “NRW is delighted to be working in partnership with BASC on this critical survey of water voles across North Wales. The survey will not only help give us insight into the status of this protected species, but will also provide important information on the health of our wetlands and river environments.”
The Rivers Soch, Geirch and Penrhos were last surveyed by BASC in 2011 and signs of water voles were found at a number of locations.
BASC’s Green Shoots officer Audrey Watson said; “Since 2011, BASC has operated a programme of mink control on the main rivers with the help of shoots, landowners, and fisheries in an attempt to protect the remaining water vole populations on the peninsula.
“These repeat surveys will enable us to gauge how successful that control programme has been and will provide the benchmark for future conservation of water voles throughout the project area. When we first started trapping mink, we had reports of nearly 20 being caught on the Llyn. Last year, we caught five with the same number of traps and none this year. What we hope to find is that our success in reducing the number of mink has allowed water voles to survive and hopefully spread.”