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The final countdown
The final countdown - the second largest ever reintroduction of endangered water voles in the UK has come to an end
One of the largest programmes of water vole reintroduction ever undertaken in the UK has been completed with the release of the final 150 voles into the waterways of Kielder Water & Forest Park by the Restoring Ratty project, taking the total number by the end of the week to over 2000.
Funded by National Lottery players through a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the aim of the Restoring Ratty project partners -Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Forestry England and Tyne Rivers Trust - was to restore populations of this endangered mammal to the Kielder catchment of the North Tyne with a view to their eventual spread throughout western reaches of Northumberland.
The first release of 325 water voles took place in Scaup Burn in June 2017 following a 30 year absence in the area. The last batch have been released at Wind Burin, with 39 release sites in between. With sightings around the Kielder and Tarset areas being reported including one when a school group was on site and nearly running over somebody’s foot, it’s apparent that they have spread more widely from the release areas. Over the past four years, the Restoring Ratty project has brought communities together, engaged with 2083 schoolchildren and students from 23 establishments and held 61 community events, training days, talks to and student visits despite lockdowns and government restrictions.
Moving forward, the project partners are working with a number of interested partners to continue the captive breeding of the line of northern water voles released into Kielder rather than start again for any future water vole projects in the north. They are also hoping to link existing water vole populations to ensure there aren’t any isolated populations at risk.
Kelly Hollings, Restoring Ratty Project Officer said:
“Restoring Ratty has been a fantastic project to work on. It’s really brought people together, our volunteers have had a great time and we’ve had so much support from the local community and local businesses especially the First and Last Brewery in Elsdon, local shoppers via the Co-op Community Fund and the Ray Wind Fund. It doesn’t feel like the end of a project, but like the beginning of a new era. Now Ratty has returned to Kielder, we need to protect them and keep monitoring for mink, surveying habitats as well as working with local landowners to ensure they continue to thrive.”