Over 150 water voles will be released at Seaton Wetlands

Major reintroduction programme to boost water vole population

East Devon District Council's countryside team along with the Axe Vale & District Conservation Society will be boosting the water vole population at Seaton Wetlands next month (September) in a major reintroduction programme.

Nationally, water voles have suffered decline due to loss of habitat, an increase in predation from non-native American mink and increasing urbanisation. The exciting Water Vole Project will see a phased release of the water voles at Seaton Wetlands, into prime habitat suitable for them to thrive.

Cllr Marcus Hartnell, East Devon District Council's deputy portfolio holder for the environment, said:

This is a hugely exciting project for the countryside team and East Devon as a whole. Water voles are an iconic feature of British wildlife and I am delighted that the wetlands will be providing habitat for over 150 water voles. I am optimistic that the ongoing management of the site will provide suitable conditions for their numbers to thrive. 

The water voles are being bred by Derek Gow Consultancy Ltd, a team of ecological consultants who specialise in mammal conservation and re-introduction ecology, and are based in West Devon.

James Chubb, countryside team leader (Sites), said:

Children and adults across Britain have fond memories of Ratty, the water vole from Wind and the Willows, and it is tragic that water vole numbers are in decline nationally. Water voles are a quintessential part of the river ecosystem. Their burrowing, feeding and movement help improve conditions for other riparian wildlife to thrive such as dragonflies and demoiselles.

The countryside team is delighted to have secured partnership funding with the Axe Vale & District Conservation Society to restore their population along the River Axe. We hope that ongoing habitat management on the wetlands and more widely, will enable water voles to thrive, providing visitors with increased opportunities to see ‘real-life Rattys’!

In 2008, 100 water voles were released at Seaton Wetlands, and surveys reveal that numbers have been maintained but not flourished. Ten years down the line, with improved habitat and a reduced mink population - due in no small part to an increase in otters at Seaton Wetlands - it is felt that now is a timely opportunity to boost the water vole population with a fresh cohort. 

Doug Rudge from the Axe Vale & District Conservation Society said:

Boosting the number of water voles in the southern stretch of the river will hopefully allow their population to grow and spread northwards towards a remnant native population at the headwaters of the Axe in Dorset. Focussing the reintroductions at Seaton Wetlands is a great way to ensure their immediate needs are met by the nature reserve team and volunteers, as well as providing amazing opportunities for visitors to see them in the wild. 

Seaton Wetlands is a Green Flag awarded nature reserve to the north of Seaton. It is owned by East Devon District Council and managed by the countryside team. The site is suitable for all ages, free to visit and home to an abundance of wildlife. For more information on visiting Seaton Wetlands and other East Devon nature reserves visit wildeastdevon.co.uk. The countryside team can be contacted by email at wild@eastdevon.co.uk or by calling 01395 517557.