Water vole spotters wanted

Water voles have experienced the most severe decline of any wild mammal in the UK Credit: Press Association

Water vole spotters are wanted in Cumbria and southern Scotland to help protect populations of the under-threat mammal.

Conservation charity the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) launched the first National Water Vole Monitoring Programme in 2015 and is looking for existing volunteers and new recruits to survey sites for signs and sightings of water voles.

Water voles were once a common sight along UK riverbanks and waterways, but during the 20th century their populations experienced a dramatic decline due to the intensification of agriculture, loss of habitat, water pollution and more recently predation by non-native American mink.

The impact of mink has been particularly devastating - between 1989 and 1998 the water vole population crashed by almost 90%. Since then conservation groups have been working hard to improve habitats and control mink numbers.

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 during May.

Sites that are already being surveyed can also be registered with the programme. Though no prior experience is required, volunteers will need to learn how to identify water vole field signs.

To find out more, or to take part in PTES’ 2017 National Water Vole Monitoring Programme, click here.