Water Voles on the Foss

I’ve long wondered whether we have a significant population of water voles along the Foss. The RFS has had several reports of sightings, though unless you are experienced it’s not all that easy to be sure that it’s a water vole, not a rat when you don’t get a clear and fairly close view.

Following our successful application for LNP funding in conjunction with St Nicks we were able to undertake some training in identifying riparian mammals (mainly water vole, otters, mink and rats). This has allowed us, again with the backing of St Nicks, to go out and look for traces.

Taking advantage of the recent slightly lower water levels and much reduced flow rates we decided get our waders on and follow the river upstream from Yearsley Baths. To our delight we have identified several places where there has been recent water vole activity, for example holes which show typical grazed areas around them, blunt ended droppings composed of vegetable matter plus blades of grass chewed off at exactly 45° left by the entrances to holes.

It’s not easy to be sure how many of these are active burrows, and we found a significant number of them, so we will be building and putting out small rafts which we hope they will use as latrines.

We also found a couple of otter resting sites where they spend time sleeping between hunting trips.

We plan to continue with our surveying on a regular basis as long as river conditions allow – by all means come and have a chat with us if you see us. We are always looking for more volunteers: it is a time consuming project!

Photos from left to right – click on them to enlarge

Blades of grass chewed off at 45°

St Nicks and RFS volunteers on the hunt

Typical water vole hole with grazed area surrounding it.