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Press Release: Charity appeals to public to survey endangered water voles

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National Water Vole Monitoring Programme starts 15 April 2018


People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling on all wildlife enthusiasts to help monitor signs of the UK’s disappearing water voles as part of its annual National Water Vole Monitoring Programme.


Affectionately portrayed as Ratty in childhood favourite Wind in the Willows, water voles were once a common sight along UK riverbanks and waterways.  However, over the last century water voles have experienced the most severe decline of any wild mammal in the UK as they face threats from invasive American mink, habitat loss, agricultural intensification and river pollution.


In response to this dramatic decline, PTES launched the National Water Vole Monitoring Programme (NWVMP) in 2015, appealing to members of the public to help look for signs and sightings of water voles.  The annual survey starts again on 15 April 2018 and runs until 15 June.


Emily Thomas, Key Species Monitoring and Data Officer at PTES explains: “Volunteers are crucial to helping us collect robust data about the state of our water voles across the UK.  We use the data gathered to monitor population trends year on year, which in turn help guide our conservation efforts and inform us where action is needed most.”


Over two hundred volunteers have taken part in the NWVMP since 2015, and last year volunteers collected data from 222 sites across England, Scotland and Wales, of which 82 had water vole signs present (48% of sites surveyed). The distribution of positive sites is encouraging, from Cornwall and Suffolk, up to the Highlands and across to the Isle of Anglesey.  However, there are gaps in survey areas where PTES needs more help, including the South West, parts of Wales, southern Scotland and across the West Midlands.


Volunteers are asked to survey one of the nearly 900 pre-selected sites across the UK, recording all sightings and signs of water voles along a 500m length of riverbank once during the course of the two-month period. Sites that are already being surveyed can also be registered with the NWVMP. Though no prior experience is required, volunteers will need to learn how to identify water vole field signs. A survey pack, including clear instructions on how to do your survey and a field signs ID guide, will be provided.


To find out more, or to take part in PTES’s 2018 National Water Vole Monitoring Programme, visit:


If you want to support PTES’ ongoing conservation work, you can donate £3 by texting ‘PTES18 £3’ to 70070.


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For further information, interview requests, or images please call Susannah Penn or Adela Cragg at Firebird PR:

T: 01235 835 297/ 07977 459 547

E: /


Notes to Editors


Available for interview

  • Emily Thomas, Key Species Monitoring and Data Officer, PTES 
  • Jill Nelson, CEO, PTES


About water voles

  • The water vole (Arvicola amphibius) is our largest vole and is found throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
  • Their numbers started to decline during the 1940s and 1950s when the intensification of agriculture caused the loss and degradation of their habitat, but the most devastating factor to their decline occurred in the 1980s and 1990s when American mink, which had been breeding in the wild since the mid-1950s, were illegally released from fur farms and spread across the countryside. Between 1989 and 1998 the water vole population crashed by almost 90%.
  • Threats to water voles include: predation (particularly by American mink); loss and fragmentation of habitats; disturbance of riparian habitats; pollution of watercourses and poisoning by rodenticides; persecution (water voles are sometimes mistaken for rats); and severe winters and droughts which influence water levels.


About PTES

  • PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events. Our current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards and native woodlands.
  • If you want to support PTES’ ongoing conservation work, you can donate £3 by texting ‘PTES18 £3’ to 70070.
  • Visit for more information, or follow PTES on Facebook ( and Twitter (@PTES).


About the UK Water Vole Steering Group

  • Members of the UK Water Vole Steering Group include representatives from PTES, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Environment Agency, Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural Resources Wales.
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