TransTech Environmental Consultants - Water Vole Survey Scotland
TransTech Environmental Consultants - Water Vole Survey Scotland

Water Vole Survey

Water voles (Arvicola amphibius) are widespread around Europe, living in the banks of slow moving rivers, streams and other waterways. The waterside burrows of these strong swimmers have many floor levels that hinder flooding, as well as nesting chambers and a food store for the long winter months. Although water voles are a quick meal for many predators, the UK population suffered a catastrophic level of predation by the American mink. 


Since 1998 the water vole has received legal protection through its inclusion on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), in respect of Section 9(4) only. This means that the water vole's places of shelter or protection are protected, but not the animals themselves. Recently the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 enhanced this protection by inclusion of the term ‘recklessly' in the offences quoted below. Furthermore, the current partial protection afforded this species is under wider review and may be extended in future.


It is an offence to intentionally damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which water voles use for shelter or protection. It is also an offence to intentionally disturb water voles while they are using these places.


For developments having a potential impact on riparian habitats an assessment of water vole presence may be required by the Planning Authority/environment regulator. This is carried out through a combination of field survey and desktop review of any records provided by Scottish Natural Heritage or Natural England, local conservation groups or other conservation bodies.


Water vole surveys are normally carried out between April and October when the animals are most active. Population levels peak in September when numbers are high following the summer breeding season.


All watercourses and waterbodies within 100m of the development site are surveyed for water vole field signs including close inspection of watercourses recording evidence of:

  • water vole trails,
  • droppings and latrines,
  • burrows,
  • grazed lawns around burrow entrances, and
  • feeding remains.

TransTech will produce a report suitable for the planning application. This will identify potential impacts on water vole, suggest mitigation measures and any further work required.


Development affecting water vole habitat is not licensable, to avoid committing an offence, steps must be taken to minimise damage to water vole habitat or, ideally, avoid it altogether by a sensitive design approach.


Requirements for surveys will be application and site specific. It is recommended that all applicants seek pre-application advice to ensure that they carry out surveys appropriate to their development. This will not only ensure that the required information is provided for the planning department to determine the planning application but will save expense on surveys/work that is not necessary for the application.


We carry out water vole surveys throughout Scotland which includes the Western Isles and Argyll, Lochaber, Ardnamurchan and the rest of Highland down to Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.


For more information on our water vole survey services please call the office on 01631 720699, or if you would like to request a fee quote for your project contact us by email at

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PA37 1PQ   Scotland   United Kingdom

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