Somerset

EA pays £24k to move 55 water voles from Somerset Levels

Water vole Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Moving the animals to an "over-wintering facility" and relocating them to Hampshire and Cornwall, cost about £436 per vole

Moving 55 water voles from the Somerset Levels ahead of dredging work cost £24,000, it has been revealed.

About 130,000 cubic metres of silt was removed from the rivers Parrett and Tone at Burrowbridge, last year.

To complete the work, the Environment Agency (EA) said a "substantial relocation project" costing around £436 per vole had to be carried out.

An EA spokesman said: "We had a legal duty to move the voles, which are critically endangered and protected."

As part of an £86,000 wildlife survey, the voles were trapped along a five mile (8km) stretch of the two rivers.

But moving the animals to an "over-wintering facility" and relocating them to Hampshire and Cornwall cost an additional £24,000, the agency said.

'Unusual for agency'

"The over-wintering is necessary to ensure their survival," an EA spokesman said.

"Relocating them was an essential piece of work - if we hadn't moved this population of voles then it would not have been possible to complete the dredging.

"It is unusual for the agency to undertake a substantial relocation project like this."

Large parts of the Somerset Levels spent much of the winter of 2013-14 under water.

The dredging formed the first phase of the 20-year Somerset Flood Action Plan.

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