A COLONY of water voles have swapped town for country life after being relocated for a fresh start on the edge of the New Forest.
The protected animals have been moved from Salisbury to the Avon Valley, south of Ringwood, in the hope that they will create a thriving population.
A dozen creatures were first captured and held captive ahead of construction from July of the Salisbury River Park Flood Defense and Regeneration Program.
Now they have been moved from Wiltshire to Hampshire alongside 50 captive-bred water voles to help them form a viable new colony.
It’s a move that the program’s organizer the Environment Agency (EA) has compared to a wildlife version of TV favorite Love Island.
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, based in Fordingbridge, worked with a private landowner to improve the unidentified site so that it is ready for voles.
The measures will also benefit a range of other watergrass species in the Avon Valley, including threatened waders and invertebrates.
Although in the past Ringwood water voles have struggled to be hunted by mink, an EA spokesperson said the predator population is now under control and over time it is hoped that water voles will reproduce successfully.
Although a legally protected species, water voles are also the fastest declining mammal in Britain.
Jim Girgis, associate ecologist at consultant Atkins, said: “This translocation would allow the population to thrive in suitable habitat and help re-establish key links between the known Lower and Upper Avon populations.
“This is a very important project in terms of supporting the native population of water voles in this area, which brings great benefits to the local ecosystem, and it is also another good example of ensuring the best possible outcome for both the program and the sustainability of the local environment.”
EA’s Mike Porter said: “One of the aims of the Salisbury River Park, besides flood risk reduction and regeneration, is to improve the environment for biodiversity.
“So it’s very encouraging to see this trickle down to this place where the voles are healthy and happy in their new forever home and over time they will increase in number and spread.”