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SSDC Community Grant helps ‘Reintroduce Ratty’ (water voles) at Ferne Animal Sanctuary

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South Somerset District Council has awarded Ferne Animal Sanctuary a community grant of £950 as part of a £2,950 project to reintroduce water voles to the sanctuary.

Water voles are endangered in the United Kingdom and urgent action is needed to ensure the long term survival of this iconic and charismatic species. They’re under serious threat from habitat loss and predation by the American mink. Found along our waterways, they are similar-looking to the brown rat, but with a blunt nose, small ears and furry tail.

The ‘Reintroducing Ratty’ scheme is named after the famous ‘Ratty’, a water vole in the Wind in the Willows book. Ferne Animal Sanctuary has seen two introductions of water voles into ponds at the site, where the aim is to develop a breeding population that can spread out and re-populate across South Somerset. In the first phase last October, 25 voles were introduced into the two ponds nearest the visitor centre, and successfully survived last winter and are now established. A second introduction of 35 water voles, happened last week. The voles were bred in captivity by environment consultant Derek Gow, who also provided support to ensure the new environment was perfect for the water voles to thrive.

Once the population is established, it’s hoped the voles will spread to additional scapes on the neighbouring farm which is only a field away from the River Yarty. The first introduction last October was funded by the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund and the SSDC Community Grant award part funded the second introduction of voles earlier this month.

Chief Executive of Ferne Animal Sanctuary Elaine Hayes said: “This funding is very important to us. Water voles in South Somerset were almost wiped out by mink in the past. They are small mammals with a limited travel range and so reintroduction is the best way to bring this beautiful mammal back to South Somerset. Ferne is a sanctuary and we have the right habitat to be able to do this work. We’re very excited about the potential for the water voles to spread widely as the population develops, and thank SSDC for their help in funding this vital conservation work. Visitors are welcome to take a walk around the beautiful and peaceful pond areas and learn about the water voles, and may even be lucky enough to see one!”

SSDC Portfolio Holder for Environment, Councillor Sarah Dyke, said: “The work happening at Ferne Animal Sanctuary to reintroduce endangered water voles is inspiring and we we’re delighted to be able to support it. We encourage other communities and organisations to apply for community grant support for their projects that are making a better environment for the people, wildlife and habitats of South Somerset.”

Could your parish benefit from an SSDC Community Grant?

SSDC Community Grants are a way to make where you live a better place, so if you have an idea to enhance where you live, visit our website to find out more.

Grants are awarded to charities, non-profit organisations and Town and Parish Councils. We can award up to a maximum of 50% of the application value and request you have support from your Parish or Town Council, as well as considered other possible funding options. Requests between £101 and £12,500 are considered under this scheme.


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