25 October 2013
Last updated at 01:56
A new colony of water voles has been captured on film using hidden cameras at a canal lock in Wiltshire.
Ecologists from the Canal and River Trust spotted signs of the creatures during conservation works at the Caen Hill lock flight near Devizes.
Laura Plenty, from the trust, said: “We decided it was a fantastic place to test our heat and motion sensitive camera to catch them in the act.”
The nationally-protected species is one of the UK’s fastest declining mammals.
‘Not camera shy’
Ms Plenty said the trust had been working to create the right habitat for the creatures in an attempt to reverse the decline in the water vole population.
She said they knew there were some colonies on the canal near Devizes but had not been aware of this particular colony until the recent visit to Caen Hill Lock.
She said they put the camera in place after “spotting a water vole latrine which is basically a big pile of droppings”.
“I couldn’t believe it when we captured our first footage of the water vole,” Ms Plenty said.
“It clearly wasn’t camera shy, as we managed to get further footage, with the vole even investigating the camera and knocking it over which happily lead to some fantastic shots of water voles hauling themselves out of the water.
“Viewing the footage of the vole proves that this hard work has been worthwhile.
“The fact that there’s a new colony of voles living on the canal is the best reward we could ask for.”
Water voles like to live along canals and riverbanks so they can burrow to create complicated systems of underground tunnels and nesting chambers.
A survey released by the Environment Agency and wildlife trusts in September, suggested that water voles had decreased by a fifth in the UK since 2011.
Reasons for the declining population include habitat loss, predation by American mink and changeable weather.