Spent the last week wrestling with water voles down in Devon on a course run by Derek Gow Consultancy to learn the right way to trap and handle these feisty rodents, which have seen there numbers plummet across Britain, mainly as a consequence of loss of wetland habitat and the ditches and riverbanks they inhabit, but also due to the introduction of American Mink who were released from fur farms and, unlike our native wildlife, could follow water voles into their burrows and through the water.
Still, as I learnt, water voles are not without their defences which included weeing in my eye as I tried to sex them and turning somersaults in order to bite me as I attempted to stuff them head first down a pringles tube (the man made equivalent of a water vole burrow it seems)
Nowadays, water voles in Britain are protected by a myriad of laws which prevent their burrows being destroyed. This protection is a blessing but can sometimes cause problems when work needs to be done to improve rivers and ditches for other wildlife by narrowing channels, installing trees or creating new ponds. The solution is to temporarily catch the water voles while the work is taking place and then release them at a later date into a, hopefully, improved wetland.
After a few days of mucking out water vole pens and learning the ins and outs of the law then Derek Gow proclaimed I had earnt my stripes and could be considered competent enough to go out and tackle the beasties in the field.