Water vole appealProtect water voles
Water voles are at risk of extinction in Britain
Have you ever seen a water vole? If you have, you’re very lucky. They’re now one of Britain’s fastest declining mammals. In the 1980s and 90s, they suffered a catastrophic 90% drop in their population, largely due to the spread of American mink, which were introduced into our countryside through illegal releases or escapes from fur farms. To make things worse, a steady loss of wetlands and freshwater areas is forcing water voles to live in less-than-ideal habitats where they’re more exposed to mink and at risk of local extinctions.
You can help water voles from being wiped out. We’re helping Natural England create a strategic action plan, ready to pilot this year. You can help provide the evidence needed to support it.
Evidence from our National Water Vole Monitoring Programme will be the backbone of the action plan. It’s a crucial element in saving water voles from extinction. Each year our volunteers survey waterways across Britain, recording where water voles are found to be present or absent. It’s thanks to past monitoring like this that we know how much the water vole population has declined. Now, it can help save them.
The more evidence we gain, the more effective future water vole conservation will be, so we’re expanding our survey. We’re running training courses online and in-person to encourage more volunteers, and survey more sites. And we’ll improve the monitoring itself. Water vole signs are tell-tale but elusive, so it can be down to luck if they’re easy to spot on survey day. To increase the odds of finding them, we’ve been trialling the use of floating latrine rafts to see if they can help us find evidence of water vole more often and easily. Spotting droppings on floating rafts is a great deal easier than hunting for signs of burrows and chewed grasses. In 2022, the latrine raft trial was a huge success, and we even identified water vole sites that we weren’t aware of.
I’m sure you know how vital evidence is to conservation. It’s crucial to spotting long-term trends and helps us judge where action is needed most. I can’t stress enough how much water voles need us all working together to save them. These sweet, elusive animals deserve to be safe in our rivers and wetlands. If you can help today, you’ll be strengthening the water vole monitoring that underpins the action plan to save them. Your support now could help save water voles in Britain.
Emily Sabin, Water Vole Officer
Image credits Craig Jones, Mark Bridger Shutterstock, Mike Lane iStock