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Rutland Water
The 800 acres of Rutland Water is a relatively recently created wildlife habitat. The site is owned by Anglian water and managed by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust which has a permanent presence based on site. While the reservoir provides a strategic water supply the Nature Reserve is one of the most important wildfowl sanctuaries in Great Britain. It is a site of scientific interest, is designated as an ESPA and is recognised as a globally important wetland RAMSAR site. The reserve contains approximately 100 acres of good quality potential water vole habitat. There are approximately 37 acres of reed beds, 3000 meters of secondary ditch system and 1800 meters of stream or other bank side habitat. Within the wider catchment there is approximately 140 km of further potential habitat. Museum specimens, historic sightings and field sign records testify that water voles were formerly a common species in Rutland. The Vincent Wildlife Trusts 1989-90 National Water Vole Survey recorded the species presence on 72.4% of surveyed sites in the Anglian region. By 1996-98 this percentage had declined to 29.8% and they were "patchy…nowhere abundant" on the Gwash. Population estimates based on these regional percentages hypothesised an initial figure of 1,400,735 in 1989 declining to 179,352 by 1998. In the 13 year period between this last national survey and 2011 the Wildlife Trust has continued to monitor a significant decline in the water vole population. They are currently a very rare species in Leicestershire and Rutland. Although sporadic sightings of water voles have been recorded at Rutland Water in the last few years it would seem likely that the species is now
either extinct or present in such low numbers as to be no longer viable. A strategic programme of North American mink control has been in place on site for a number of years using the mink monitoring raft developed by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. The rafts are monitored weekly and no field signs of North American mink have been identified since 2008. A sighting of a single individual was reported in 2009. There are healthy breeding populations of moorhen and little grebe which are both good indicators of a mink free environment. Many other species of wetland birds breed in profusion on the 600 acre site. While it is therefore not likely that a breeding population of mink are present irregular immigrants are probable. The mink rafting programme will be extended in 2011 to cover the entire catchment of Rutland Water.  The current project at Rutland Water aims to reintroduce water voles for at least 2 seasons in order to re-establish a substantive, genetically diverse, meta-population of considerable size and scope. The reintroduction of approximately 400 individual water voles into pre-selected sites commenced in the summer of 2011. This  process  will continue with reinforcements in the spring and summer of 2012. Links  - click on the logo below
Specialists in water vole ecology