ENDANGERED water voles have been spotted at Delamere Forest after decades of decline, thanks to the Forestry Commission.
Water vole numbers have dramatically reduced over the past 30 years, by up to 90% across the country, largely due to changes in land use and the introduction of the American mink which prey on the tiny mammals.
Now they are making a comeback at Delamere where Forestry Commission rangers have spotted droppings – a good sign that populations are moving back into the area.
Adrienne Bennett, Forestry Commission ecologist covering Cheshire, is planning to survey the area and other appropriate habitats at Forestry Commission sites across the North West to confirm that water voles are living there.
She said: “They are quite resilient creatures but there have been so many factors stacked against them that have had a dramatic impact.
“Surveys will begin this spring and can be as simple as walking the waterways to spot them, or hiding small ‘rafts’ in the reeds that attract water voles to deposit their droppings.”
Adrienne said it is difficult to determine exact numbers, but once water voles are confirmed there are steps they can take to help them thrive, such as improving the banks of ponds or streams for burrowing and monitoring for mink in the area.
They may also work with environmental and wildlife organisations that manage adjacent sites to link habitats and help populations spread.
Water voles have been returning to Forestry Commission sites across the North West over the past few years.
Forestry Commission ranger Adam Evans said: “It is positive news that water voles are returning. If we can identify suitable habitats and open up corridors for water voles to populate them, they could flourish again.”