Officers from Natural Resources Wales, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and the Council, along with volunteers helped to release 200 water voles at Ffrwd Farm Mire near Pembrey recently, as part of a project to re-introduce the animal to sites where it was historically found. Ffrwd Farm Mire is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), was selected because it provides excellent habitat for water voles including ditches, ponds, reedbeds and fen.

Water voles were once common in rivers, canals and ponds across Wales. However habitat loss and degradation and predation by American mink mean that they have suffered a huge decline in the last few decades and are now highly endangered.

Establishing a new population at Ffrwd will hopefully allow the voles to disperse into the surrounding landscape to re-colonise the local ditch systems where they were once common.

The voles being released at Ffrwd Farm include the offspring of a small number of water voles captured from sites in Llanelli last autumn. These were kept in captivity over the winter and paired up to breed in the spring. In the run-up to the release, Natural Resources Wales has also worked with conservation groups and local landowners to improve the surrounding habitats for water voles. This has involved clearing and fencing ditches to make them suitable for water voles as well as monitoring and trapping mink in the areas around Ffrwd Farm reserve. A video of the day’s events can be seen here.

As well as boosting the vole population, the work to the ditches also has wider benefits. For other species such as otters and bats, improving ditch habitat creates a network of corridors which they use to travel around. Dense vegetation alongside the waterways helps to improve water quality by slowing and filtering the water run-off and pollutants entering the rivers from surrounding land.

From Carmarthenshire Biodiversity Partnership newsletter June to August 2014.

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