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Water voles

Mink were introduced from North America in 1929 for the fur trade, but escapees and illegal releases means that they have become established and spread across the entire country, decimating water vole populations.

Water pollution, the loss of healthy river bank vegetation and pressures from predatory led to the loss of more than 90% of our water voles by the end of the 1990s.

A recent report has shown a further 30% decline in the places where water voles live in England and Wales between 2006-2015.

Read more about the life of a water vole in our fact file.

How we’re helping water voles

Since 1980, we’ve funded over 40 water vole projects. We’ve investigated what helps water voles to seek refuge from American mink. We discovered the best ways of restoring good habitat. We’ve captive-bred and released water voles back to areas where they were lost and we’re currently supporting a country-wide programme in Scotland working with members of the public to control mink.

We manage the national monitoring scheme for water voles, collating the survey information collected by our tireless volunteers and hundreds of others across England, Wales and Scotland. Register your interest to take part. Initial signs from the monitoring programme give us some cause for hope but there is much more to be done if we are to better understand the threats facing Britain’s water voles and help to protect them.

Currently, we are studying the effects of waterway maintenance on local populations of water voles, trying to learn more about how water voles change their local environment and also working on a project to map water vole strongholds across the UK.

We also support research and conservation on water voles through other organisations. To read more about these projects and other work please visit out grants pages.

Monitoring water voles across the UK – we need you!

We work with many other people nationwide to ensure we’re doing the best we can to save this species from extinction. We know what needs to be done, but we need to monitor our progress properly to be sure of success and to act where its needed. We can’t do this without you.

With our partners the Wildlife Trusts, Natural Resources Wales, RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Environment Agency and Natural England, we set up the National Water Vole Monitoring Programme.

We regularly survey around 900 sites across the UK and are creating a water vole conservation community. With more of us working together our impact can be even more effective.

Volunteer to survey water vole sites

We need to increase our army of volunteers who dedicate some of their free time to search for signs of water vole presence across England, Wales and Scotland.

You’ll need to do a survey once a year at a pre-selected site near you. No experience is required, so long as you learn how to identify field signs and follow our guidelines.

If you already regularly survey water voles you can add those site details too.

If you’re interested in helping water voles, find out more and register to take part here!

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