Water vole protection
Water voles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Are we doing enough to ensure the protection of the reserve’s water voles?
The 1981 Act says that it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or capture a water vole. It is also an offence to damage, destroy, disturb or obstruct access to what the act calls a structure or place used for shelter or protection, in other words, its home or any of the tunnels and runnels a water vole makes through its territory.
 A water vole in the reserve’s tributary stream between the two bridges.  A water vole hole in the bank of the main Lambrok channel.
Header image taken in the reserve by Simon Knight
This means that it is an offence to disturb the reserve’s water voles, their holes or territories, or to knowingly let your dog disturb them. If your dog digs in the banks of the Lambrok or its tributary stream it is almost certainly digging up a water vole’s hole; if it hunts up and down any of the park’s waterways, it is probably hunting water voles. This is an offence, according to the Crown Prosecution Service, punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment or a level five fine or both.
It’s not just the reserve’s visitors and dog walkers that might not be taking sufficient care of this species. Water voles are also listed as a rare and most threatened species under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006). The NERC Act makes it the duty of all local authorities to conserve biodiversity. This means that Wiltshire Council, Trowbridge Town Council and Southwick Parish Council should be acting to ensure the protection of water voles in Southwick Country Park Local Nature Reserve.
Just four of the nine S41 mammals on our species lists:  water vole (Arvicola amphibius)  hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)  otter (Lutra lutra)  lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)
Section 41 of the Act refers to a published list of habitats and species (called S41 species) which are considered to be of principal importance for the conservation of the country’s biodiversity. As well as our water voles, we have eight more S41 mammal species on the reserve’s lists.
We need to be taking better care of our protected wildlife, calling our dogs away from water vole territories, asking the Parish Council how it informs Southwick residents of this important little nature reserve on their doorstep, telling Wiltshire Council to step up and defend our biodiversity by providing green spaces where people can exercise their dogs safely without endangering the wildlife.
Go safely and carefully through these dangerous times.
Our wildlife photographer, Simon Knight, has commented below.