Mission to help protect the water vole

HELPING HAND: The water vole is among a number of wildlife creatures being helped in the project.
HELPING HAND: The water vole is among a number of wildlife creatures being helped in the project.
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WATER voles are being given a lifeline at an East Yorkshire farm, thanks to a team of ‘Habitat Heroes’ helping to preserve the protected mammals.

The Habitat Heroes project, set up on the Co-operative Group Farm, aims to identify where investments and adaptations can be made to improve the habitats, feeding and breeding opportunities for protected species such as otters and bats, as well as red squirrels.

The farm at Goole is one of six farms across the country involved in the Co-op’s scheme and has linked with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT), which has conducted a 50-day survey of the farm’s watercourses to map the positive signs of water voles.

Thanks to the mapping process, the farm is now able to stagger essential ditch management and clearance programmes, giving water voles the opportunity to relocate before their homes are cleared, thereby improving their chance of survival.

Euan Fraser, farm manager at Goole, said he was very excited about the water vole project and that protecting the environment and wildlife on the land was very important.

He said: “As Britain’s largest farmer we feel we have a responsibility to lead the way environmentally, and I’m delighted that our farm is taking part in this important national initiative.”

As part of the Habitat Heroes project, the farm and the YWT will continue to survey the farm’s watercourses each year. Volunteers will be trained to look for evidence of water voles using sightings, droppings, food remains and tracks. It is hoped the surveys will also uncover evidence of other species, such as otters.

Tom Hayek, from the YWT, said: “The historic drainage activities in the area of land around The Co-operative’s Goole farm has created a substantial network of drains and ditches that provide an ideal habitat for this threatened species.

“By establishing where the populations are concentrated through these surveys, we are working with The Co-operative Farms to manage the habitats and allow the population to thrive.”

The five other Co-operative farms involved in the Habitat Heroes project have seen red squirrels, bats hoverflies, bees and barn owls protected. The Co-operative Farms has been farming the land at Goole since 1917. The crops grown on the land include barley, rapeseed and sugar beet, potatoes, wheat and beetroot. The farm also produces honey.

JOIN THE REVOLUTION

The water vole was once a common sight across Britain’s waterways. However, the number of water voles shrank following the introduction of their biggest predator, the American mink.

The Co-operative Farms will incorporate Habitat Heroes’ activities into its Green Schools Revolution to encourage schools to take part in eco-friendly activities.

Schools can register to benefit from Green Schools Revolution at www.greenschools.coop.

Protecting the environment and inspiring young people are key elements in the group’s Ethical Plan, launched earlier this year.