Somerset Wildlife Trust concerned for River Tone ‘Ratty’
28th February 2018 – This week saw the launch of a worrying report from The Wildlife Trusts which reveals that numbers of water vole - the creature portrayed as Ratty in the children’s classic, ‘The Wind in The Willows’- have declined by 30% across England and Wales during the survey period 2006 – 2015*.
The Wildlife Trusts and many other individuals and groups carry out river restoration and reintroductions of water voles across the UK. At a local level, these projects appear to have been successful; however, these successes are not enough to reverse the national distribution trends. Somerset Wildlife Trust’s work across its reserves and urban areas is key in strengthening habitats and providing good conditions for water vole populations to survive and thrive and will be using its influence within the county to help support a more positive future for this most endearing of our small mammals.
Jolyon Chesworth, Nature and Wellbeing Manger for Somerset Wildlife Trust says,
“Habitat loss, water pollution, predation and development has led to massive declines in the number of water voles since the 1960s, having disappeared from 94% of places where they were once prevalent*, so it is crucial that action is taken now to reverse this trend. Surprising to many, water voles can be found in Taunton, living along the River Tone and its tributaries, and with Taunton being a ‘Garden Town’ and planned riverside development, there is a real need for Councilors and policy makers to ensure any decisions taken enhance our town for the benefit of wildlife as well as people.”
He continues, “Water Voles are an essential part of our wild and watery places across Somerset. When walking through Taunton it is delightful to enjoy the variety of wildlife surrounding the River Tone and hear that distinctive ‘plop’ of these mammals dropping into the water nearby. They are a much-loved creature of Taunton – and the county - and undoubtedly captivate members of the public. If we don’t work to reverse their decline, we not only risk losing these species from parts of Somerset, but will lose a wonderful mammal that connects urban communities with the nature on their doorstep.”
Somerset Wildlife Trust will be joining the Wildlife Trusts in calling for:
· Government and Local Authorities to enable the creation of a Nature Recovery Network, as set out in the Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment. A Nature Recovery Network should be underpinned by a new Environment Act to protect, link and create areas of habitat which help wildlife move and spread out, benefitting water voles and a range of other wildlife. Funding should be increased to expand water vole conservation efforts including for landscape-scale restoration schemes.
· Landowners and developers to manage river bank habitat sympathetically to help water voles, e.g. provide generous buffer strips to provide shelter and feeding areas; create soft edges to river banks for water voles to create burrows in, and avoid using heavy machinery close to the edge of watercourses.
· People to find out about opportunities to help survey water voles or manage riverside habitat with local Wildlife Trusts and other groups involved in water vole conservation.
WaterVole Pic - BenSimmonds