We had a very enjoyable water vole trapping session on the Chichester canal, the Birdham section, at the beginning of October 2013. Trapping water voles requires a license from Natural England and must be related to a scientific project that will benefit the species. Rowenna Baker from The University of Brighton is carrying out DNA analysis of water voles to better understand their relationships and dispersal in different habitats. Rowenna has been using the population on the Chichester canal as one of her study groups and this is the 3rd trapping session that she has carried out.
The first stage of the trapping is to put out 50 traps over a kilometre stretch.
Then the traps are baited with apples and filled with hay and carrot. On this occasion the apple and carrot were kindly provided by Nature’s Way – 10kg of carrot and 50 apples. The traps are then checked morning and night – the difficult bit is getting the water vole out of the trap!
Once a water vole is caught – it is ‘processed’.
First the individual is checked to see if it has already been caught and micro-chipped in a previous session. If not it is weighed, sexed, its condition assessed, and then it is micro-chipped.
The water vole is then placed in a Pringles tube and released back into the canal where it was caught.
The water vole trapping did not catch as many water voles this year as we have in previous years. in total we got 7 individuals, which compared to 18 in Oct 2012 is significantly less. There may be a number of factors that has caused this drop. The water levels in the ditches and ponds across the peninsula have been very low as a result of a dry summer and this has also affected the canal. The canal banks had been strimmed removing much of the bankside vegetation and the open water of the canal is dominated by a thick pond weed. These may all be factors that have made trapping water voles more difficult this year.
The Water Vole Patrol all had fun with the trapping, not sure the water voles enjoyed it quite so much! Thanks to Rowenna and Pete for including us in their project.