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 the survey period 2006 - 2015.* 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.
Great conservation efforts have been made to ensure a future for this mammal: The Wildlife Trusts and many other individuals and groups carry out river restoration and reintroductions of water voles across the UK. At a local level, these projects appear to have been successful; however, these successes are not enough to reverse the national distribution trends.
Habitat loss, water pollution and built development have led to massive declines in the number of water voles since the 1960s – this has been exacerbated by predation by North American mink which were introduced to Britain for fur farming in the twentieth century. The water vole is the UK’s most rapidly declining mammal and has been lost from 94% of places where they were once prevalent.* The latest data revealing a ten year decline of 30% shows an ever-worsening situation: their range is continuing to contract.