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RAF CROUGHTON — The furriest and quite possibly tiniest of tenants on this Air Force base are getting a home of their own.

Work was completed this summer on a new two-pond habitat for the water vole, an endangered critter that calls the Northamptonshire countryside and Croughton’s waterways home.

Survey work started in 2006, with about $45,000 in Air Force funds for the project following after that, according to Alex Wilkieson, the environmental flight chief at Croughton.

The new ponds are all but completed, but Wilkieson said the voles won’t gravitate to their new home until more vegetation grows in around the banks.

Under U.K. law, the water vole and its habitat are protected, with Wilkieson saying the Air Force effort has gone "above and beyond" guidelines for protecting such endangered species.

The base grounds hold one of the largest water vole populations in the area, definitely in Northamptonshire, he said.

The need to protect the vole has become more apparent as its numbers have dwindled, Wilkieson said.

"They’ve declined by 95 percent over the last 20 years in the U.K.," he said.

The voles will live in burrows throughout the banks of the newly created bodies of water, he said, and mink traps have been set up to protect the voles from their natural predator.

The life of the water vole is short and rife with reproductive fury. They live just 18 to 24 months, with females producing six litters in that short amount of time.

As the new Croughton habitat’s vegetation grows, finishing touches are being put on amenities such as nature trails that local classes will be able to use, all in the name of learning more about their furry herbivorous neighbors.


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