A ‘VOLE patrol’ of trained volunteers is to be created to help one of Britain’s most endangered species of mammal survive the major engineering works to re-align part of the Medmerry coastline.
The project to protect water voles on the Manhood Peninsula has been made possible thanks to a grant of £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group will be setting out to create its volunteer task force for Medmerry, one of just two areas along the Sussex coastline where a native population of water vole is still living.
Jill Sutcliffe of the wildlife group said: “The key aim is to create a long term sustainable future for the endangered water vole, the only native population in West Sussex.
“The work will enhance the sites and link them up, which will, in turn, allow the species to migrate and expand in numbers. The grant is fantastic news and especially for a group of volunteers.”
In the past 30 years, an estimated 95 per cent of the timid creatures have been lost, some as a result of habitat changes, and others because of their main predator, the American mink.
Now a flood protection scheme, the realignment of the Medmerry coastline, will alter the shape of the peninsula west of Selsey and this will affect the network of ditches, streams and ponds where the vole lives.
The project will train up to 30 volunteers over three years to survey the area, identifying where the voles live. They will assess the condition of ditches and what conservation work will be necessary so the animals can move around the habitat without difficulty when the environmental engineering works take effect in March next year.
Supporting the practical work will be an education programme to raise awareness of the water vole with local communities, schools, colleges and landowners. Part of the HLF funding will support a project officer whose task is to arrange the volunteer programme and environmental work.