Water voles have experienced one of the most rapid and serious declines of any British wild mammal ever…
Habitat loss and fragmentation during the 20th Century and more recent pressures from non-native American mink led to the disappearance of more than 90% of our water voles by the end of the 1990s.
A recent report estimated a further 30% decline in the places where water voles live in England and Wales between 2006-2015. Encouragingly, the report did show that there was a slight increase in distribution of water voles in the most recent reporting period (2011 to 2015) compared to the previous reporting period (2010 to 2014) and some successful conservation activity.
Read more about the life of a water vole in our fact file.
How we’re helping water voles
Since 1997, we’ve funded 45 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 supported a country-wide programme in Scotland working with members of the public to control mink and we have recently studied the effects of waterway maintenance on local populations of water voles.
We manage the national monitoring programme 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 whether environmental DNA (eNDA) can be successfully used to monitor water voles, the unusual grassland dwelling water voles of Glasgow, evaluating the effect of 15 years of mink control on water vole numbers in Suffolk and we are funding a project that maps water vole strongholds across the UK.
To read more about these projects and our 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 in 2015.
We regularly survey 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.