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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Leg up for wandering water voles
Water vole
The water vole population is in decline
Water voles are to be given a helping hand by engineers repairing a South Tyneside Road.

Moor Lane in East Boldon is close to Boldon Flats, which is an important wildlife habitat.

While it is closed for 90,000 repair work a special crossing, or mammal shelf, will be installed.

This will allow the local water vole population to scamper safely underneath the road, rather than risk their lives in running across it.

Clare Rawcliffe, South Tyneside Council's local nature reserve officer, said: "There's a ditch system which runs from the wetland around Boldon Flats and around neighbouring farms.

"We know water voles are currently in the ditch close to the roadworks, so we want to give them a chance to get across.

"They are currently one of the most endangered mammals in the UK, and we believe the population has declined by over 90% in the last ten years, so they are probably reasonably close to extinction.

"So we are trying to do our best to up the population where they still exist."

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