NUMBERS of one of the most threatened species of UK wildlife are bucking the national trend in Ashbourne, according to experts.
Despite an overall decline in the population of water voles, announced last week by the Environment Agency, the Henmore and Bentley Books have become a stronghold for the rodent.
However conservationists at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have issued a warning that a lack of funding is hampering efforts to ensure their survival.
Nationally, water vole numbers are down by more than a fifth and maps published by the National UK Water Vole Database and Mapping Project indicate that the species remains vulnerable to further decline and extinctions in areas where it has not established a stronghold.
Reintroduction schemes, combined with mink control programmes and habitat management, are providing a lifeline for water voles but, in Derbyshire, the trust has seen a decline in water vole records and is not yet seeing the recovery in the Dove catchment that it has hoped for.
The trust has been working in the Dove and Derwent catchments over recent years on habitat work and mink control projects which has helped to stabilise populations on the Upper Derwent and Wye.
However the Henmore Brook, which runs through Ashbourne, and the Bentley Brook, remain the strongholds in the Dove catchment.
The trust’s Water for Wildlife project manager Chris Wood said: “In Derbyshire we run an active water vole monitoring programme with volunteers but lack of funding in recent years has made it difficult to sustain the effort required and we do not have an active water vole conservation project at this time.
But the most recent surveys, for 2007 to 2011 do indicate that the county still has some regionally important key areas for the species.”
“However, the survey also found that water voles had disappeared from 45 per cent of historical sites, particularly in the south and west of the county. It is likely that this loss has now increased.
“We would like to repeat the county-wide survey now but recent efforts to attract funding have not been successful.”
Anyone in Ashbourne that spots a water vole is being encouraged to report the sighting to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
To find out more visit www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk or call 01773 881188.