Greenfields, 64 Tone Hill, Tonedale, Wellington, Somerset, TA21 0AY 01823 299066

Water Vole Surveys

The Water vole (Arvicola terrestris) is a shy and secretive mammal and is the largest vole in the British Isles; protected in England and Wales under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

HalpinRobbins have experienced ecologists capable of conducting Water vole surveys tailored to meet our clients' needs and project requirements.

Water vole surveys can be undertaken as "stand alone" surveys, part of Preliminary Ecological Appraisals or as part of Ecological and Environmental Impact Assessments and the requirement to undertake a Water vole survey is usually determined during a Phase 1 Survey. However if a site or project contains slow moving river, stream, lake, pond or other water feature or is adjacent to such features it can be considered likely that a Water vole survey will be required in some form.

Each Water vole survey will usually comprise a habitat suitability assessment and an active search; the latter comprising a site walkover to find field signs of Water vole activity, such as facaes, latrines, feeding stations, burrows, lawns, nests, footprints, and runways. Any field signs are mapped to show where the Water voles are active and what significance each field sign has on a site and the surrounding area.

The map, with the determined field sign significance, is then compared with any plans and proposals to determine the risk or impact to both the Water voles and the proposed works or project. These results are then be used to inform land purchase, development and project works and schedules, impact assessments and to determine if further detailed Water vole surveys and appropriate wildlife mitigation licences are required.

Water vole surveys are ideally conducted between March and August (inclusive) with possible surveys in September to October depending on weather and other environmental conditions. Finding and recording signs of Water vole activity during surveys can be weather dependent, so Water vole surveys are best undertaken at the earliest available opportunity.

As Water voles and Otters (Lutra lutra) are known to occupy similar habitats it is common that if a project requires one survey it will require the other, therefore these surveys are often combined, where possible, to save our clients time and money.

For a better idea about our projects and work involving Water voles see our case studies or contact us to discuss your project.

Water vole habitat on the Somerset Levels

Water voles burrow into the banks of slow moving water bodies, such as ditches, dykes, streams, slow flowing rivers and large ponds. Protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) it is an offence to kill, injure, take or disturb a Water vole and their breeding and resting places are fully protected from damage, destruction or obstruction. Should any works require disturbing a burrow or water vole then a wildlife licence application must be submitted to the relevant governing body (such as Natural England, Natural Resource Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage) with appropriate mitigation and reasoning.

More useful information can be found on the Mammal Society website.


Our staff maintain and enhance their knowledge of ecology and the environment through research, specialist training and by maintaining membership of several professional and specialist bodies including:

Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
Royal Entomological Society
British Ecological Society

If you wish to find out more about permitting, ecology services or to discuss a project or development please contact us directly for a free, non-committal discussion.

"Nothing is too much trouble and the two way communication is second to none. I would not hesitate to recommend HalpinRobbins to anyone and we wouldn’t even contemplate going anywhere else."

Samantha Southam - Managing Director

Falcon Rural Housing Limited

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