1. ITV Report

Water vole numbers healthy in Cambridgeshire fens despite national decline

Water vole numbers are declining nationally Credit: ITV News Anglia

The Cambridgeshire Fens has a healthy number of water voles and numbers are improving in Essex, despite a national decline according to new figures.

The number of voles across England and Wales has dropped by 30% over a ten year period.

The reserves and waterways around Peterborough and Cambridge are good habitats for the small mammals, especially on the Bourn Brook where the Bourn Free project has run since 2011.

A conservation project to re-introduce the animals on the River Colne and the River Stort has been successful.

"Water voles only live 2-3 years in the wild and many die over winter, so mild winters allowed more to survive, which might account at least in part for the good numbers found. Wide, grass field margins seem to be important for water vole and similarly refuges on river and ditch banks in the city."

– Ruth Hawksley, Wildlife Trust Water for Wildlife Officer

The data has been collected over 10 years by a network of experts led by the Wildlife Trusts.

"Water voles are an essential part of our wild and watery places and it's very sad that we're continuing to witness huge declines of this lovely mammal. The Wildlife Trusts and others are working hard to help bring them back again and care for the places that they need to survive - but much more is needed if we're going to stop this charming creature disappearing altogether."

– Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager for the Wildlife Trusts

Habitat loss, water pollution and massive building development have led to declines in the voles since the 1960s.

This has been made worse by its predator the North American mink.

The water vole is the UK's most rapidly declining mammal and has been lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent.

Projects to protect water voles are helping keep numbers steady in places Credit: ITV News Anglia
Of places have lost water voles

The Wildlife Trusts are calling for the following:

  • The creation of a Nature Recovery Network and new Environment Act to protect, link and create areas of habitat which help wildlife move and spread out.
  • Landowners to manager river bank habitat sympathetically to help water voles.
  • People to find out about opportunities to help survey water voles or manage riverside habitat with local Wildlife Trusts and other groups.