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Water voles spotted around Driffield Beck

Having been lost from over 90 per cent of their breeding sites, water voles in the UK are now legally protected species, as the country’s fastest declining mammals.

But there has been good news in recent weeks for an animal that appears to be facing extinction after two were spotted on Driffield’s waterways.

Water voles are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and listed as endangered on both the Great Britain and the England Red List for Mammals.

The mammal lives along rivers, streams and ditches, around ponds and lakes and in marshes, reedbeds and areas of wet moorland.

The tell-tale sign that one of these chestnut-brown furry creatures has been around is a burrow in a riverbank, often with a nibbled lawn of grass around the entrance.

Local conservationist John Pemberton, who sighted the water voles in Driffield this month, told the Wolds Weekly that the fact the endangered mammals are in the Capital of the Wolds is testament to the quality of the banks of the waterway.

However, he issued advice to anyone who has responsibility for Driffield Beck should water vole numbers start to increase.

“Water voles have been lost from over 90 per cent of their UK breeding sites and are now under the highest level of protection afforded to species in the UK,” said John.

“Water voles are known to be present on the River Hull and its tributaries as well as along Driffield Canal.

“I have recorded them twice in September in the centre of Driffield on the beck, as far along as North End Park and Beck Way.

“This is excellent news and a credit to the quality of vegetation and habitat along the banks.

“It is possible that these are erroneous occurrences or it could be an indication of expansion into more suitable habitat using the beck as a corridor.

“However, this also brings with it responsibility, as a water vole habitat is protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act, making it a criminal offence to intentionally kill, injure or take them and possess or control them, alive or dead.

“It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a structure or place used for shelter or protection, disturb them in a place used for shelter or protection or obstruct access to a place used for shelter or protection.

“This is critically important information for anyone involved in the management of the beck and its banks.

“Water vole habitat includes bankside and channel vegetation to prevent damage to the population and also to ensure legal compliance.”

Anyone who spots water voles in Driffield and the Wolds are encouraged to record the sighting with the Local Environmental Records Centre for North and East Yorkshire and a recording platform such as iRecord.

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