ECOSA water vole surveys are aimed at establishing presence, population status and to identify key areas of habitat. Survey techniques involve the identification of field signs associated with these species, including faeces, latrines, feeding stations, burrows and runs or pathways, mainly through methodical surveys of the banks of water courses.
The water vole is found throughout Britain although it is confined mainly to lowland areas near water. Since April 2008 water voles have received full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), which makes it an offence to:
Water voles typically inhabit relatively deep slow-flowing watercourses with well-vegetated banks which offer good cover for their burrows and provide a foraging resource. Burrows can extend up to five metres into banks from the water's edge. Therefore, even when direct impacts to watercourses are not proposed, impacts can result if development works occur in close proximity. Often minor development impacts such as the construction of drainage headwalls or the implementation of new stream side management can be overlooked, and surveys to establish the presence or absence of this species are therefore important.
Any activities which may destroy or disturb water vole habitat, including places they use for shelter or protection, or which might affect water quality have the potential to harm water voles.
Water vole surveys can be carried out at any time of year but are normally conducted out between April and October when animals are most active. The peak in the survey season is September when population levels are high following the summer breeding season.