Water voles

One of the treasures of Big Moor must be the water vole population living in the banks of the Bar Brook.  Lowland areas of the UK have seen the population of these charming creatures decimated by changes in habitat and being hunted by mink and other predators. Here is one I photographed on the Bar Brook in May last year -

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Yesterday I managed to get to the site where I had taken these pictures. This is what the stream bank looked like last May and you can clearly see the entrance to the voles burrow -

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and this is how it looks now with much of it under water long after the recent floods have subsided -

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I had always thought that these creatures hibernated in winter but this is not the case.  It does therefore mean that when the floods come they should be able to move to higher ground.  Lets hope that this is the case here. This location is near some old pumping equipment in the Brook and it would be very tempting to tidy the area up.  My gut feeling is that the pipes and metal castings may well give some protection for the voles in stormy or cold weather.  This area is also a stronghold for the adder and no doubt a water vole would make a decent meal for these predators. Spring will tell us whether any have survived. Here is a link to the wikipedia entry on the European water vole.  This shows that there is no threat to the water vole generally throughout Europe, and in some cases it may even be a pest.  However in the UK with our intensive farming methods and reduced areas of habitat the picture is completely different.    

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