The Water Vole – Christine Gregory – 4th April 2016

Christine Gregory has lived in Youlgrave for the past 25 years observing the life of Bradford Dale and its surroundings.  Since her career as a lecturer she now is a writer, photographer and artist.

In 2010 her book Brown Hares in the Derbyshire Dales was published and she gave a talk on the subject to Probus last year.  This was much enjoyed and she was asked to give a talk on Water Voles when her latest book became available.

Christine is a brilliant photographer and her talk is structured by showing superb photographs of not only water voles but other animals and birds that impact on them.  On the basis that there is much ignorance about water voles, she began by explaining what they are and why they are a species as endangered as the hedgehog.  They are one of the largest voles in the UK and are often mistaken for the brown rat.  Females are 8-9” long and males about 10” long.  They live in burrows close to water and their diet is almost totally vegetarian.

It is feared that over the past 7 years their numbers in this country have declined by 80%. Whilst Barn Owls, Kestrels, Pike and Stoats prey on Water Voles, the main predator is Mink.  30% of a Mink’s diet is Water Vole.

During the 1990’s when Otters were in steep decline, it’s thought that Mink numbers increased and caused the Water Vole population to plummet.  It is hoped that where Otters get re-established that Water Voles will also return.  Christine showed maps of the River Trent region to illustrate where the southern and eastern areas are now completely devoid of Water Voles.  There may be evidence that Water Vole behaviour is changing and the animals are spending less time in their burrows as that is where the Mink kill them.  They are also increasingly inhabiting upland streams.  Streams and ditches around Stanage  Edge is an example.  Her talk was particularly pertinent for Stumperlowe Probus as many of the places referred to are well known to many of the members.  Her talk was very entertaining and informative.