New report points to 30% decline in water vole distribution

© Tom Marshall

A new analysis of data collected over ten years by a network of experts led by The Wildlife Trusts has revealed that water vole distribution has declined dramatically.

There has been a 30% decline in the places where these river mammals once lived across England and Wales during this time.

While the new analysis reveals a slight increase in distribution in recent years – thanks to some successful conservation efforts by The Wildlife Trusts and others – the full data covering the whole ten years paints a bleak picture.

The water vole is the UK’s most rapidly declining mammal and has been lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent.* Habitat loss, water pollution and massive building development have led to declines in the voles since the 1960s; exacerbated by predation by North American mink, which originally escaped into the wild from fur farms.

The Wildlife Trusts and other organisations across the UK have made huge conservation efforts to restoring rivers and reintroduce the species, to ensure a future for this charismatic mammal.

Water vole reintroduction, at Titchfield on the River Meon

Water vole reintroduction at Titchfield on the River Meon, led by South Downs National Park Authority and supported by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Catherine McGuire, Project Officer at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: “We’re pleased to have coordinated this national project right here in Hampshire. The picture is stark – water voles are our fastest-declining mammal, and have disappeared from many parts of the country. However partnership work here in Hampshire, including at our St Clair’s Meadow nature reserve, shows how we can bring water voles back from the brink.”

Nida Al-Fulaij Grants Manager at PTES, which supported the project, says:
“Water voles continue to face severe threats across their range. This report on the species’ national status, produced by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, is the comprehensive review required to help us target our efforts where they are needed most. PTES is proud to have supported this vital work.”