Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 17:06 UK

Voles to be released at reserve

Water voles
The voles will be released from pens into the nature reserve

Water voles are to be released into the Netheridge Nature Reserve in Gloucestershire to boost numbers.

Many of the mammals fell victim to last summer's devastating floods.

The city council's Severnside Project, set up to conserve the water vole, hopes move will help the population grow and colonise nearby areas.

Seventy voles will be placed in release pens where they can slowly dig their way out before finding their own way to the reserve.

The site at Netheridge was surveyed, managed, cultivated and monitored for three years before 60 young water voles were released in August 2005.

The project won platinum, the highest award, in Severn Trent Water's conservation and biodiversity category of its corporate responsibility awards 2006.

Water voles were once widespread but their numbers have declined by 90% and are now a protected species.

The main threat to their survival is destruction and fragmentation of habitat and predation by the American mink.

Severn Trent Water owns the nature reserve and has part-funded the Severnside Project.

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