The water vole is quite a large rodent, a harmless vegetarian - 'Ratty!' of 'Wind in the Willows' fame is no rat, he lives on the banks of rivers, streams and lakes, and unfortunately is one of the fastest declining mammals in the whole of Europe. The decline is largely as a result of being prey to the introduced American mink (Mustela vison) with the loss of waterside habitat and pollution also contributing. Anglesey is amongst the most important havens for the water vole in Britain because of its large number of small streams and lakes, and until recently there has been few mink on the Island. The Water Vole project aims to help improve the habitat for these charming creatures and to keep the mink away from Anglesey.
Water voles love the lush vegetation on the banks of our many watercourses on the Island. We are helping our already established population by creating more habitats, and linking up these ideal areas so that the animals can move freely from one to another. We are creating new ponds with vegetated islands (safe from predators), and fencing off long sections of river bank to protect it from too much grazing to allow the traditional lush vegetation to develop. All this creates ‘corridors’ along which the animals can move.
The first mink was caught on the island in 2005, and in 2006 we introduced a programme of monitoring around the island to detect mink and take appropriate action if any were found. The system we use is the ‘mink raft’ (invented by the Game Conservancy Trust) a platform with a tunnel and tray of clay inside. When a mink enters the tunnel, it leaves a paw print in the clay -. If a mink is detected, a cage trap is placed in the tunnel and checked daily; the mink is usually caught within 7 days. Mink have been caught on Anglesey over the years using the “mink raft” near the Cefni Reservoir and on Cors Erddreiniog, near Benllech.
It is essential that we prevent mink from establishing on the island, they are true predators, feeding on fish, invertebrates, amphibians, birds and small mammals, not only a threat to water voles but to other native wildlife, such as ducks and nesting seabirds for which Anglesey is internationally famous.
Menter Môn is working on a project in partnership with Environment Agency Wales and BASC, to operate the mink rafts across Anglesey and eventually over the whole of North Wales. Working with volunteers the project aims to clear mink from the Island and increase trapping of mink on the adjacent mainland. It is hoped that the project will expand throughout Wales helping to protect our native water voles for future generations.
Water Vole Field Sign A3 (PDF)