Wildlife Trust appeal to protect water voles across Berks, Bucks & Oxon

  |  Published: Jun 24th 2014
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The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is today (Monday 23 June) launching a new appeal to raise funds for a project to help protect water voles and their habitats for the future.

Although nationally the numbers of water voles are declining, in Berks, Bucks and Oxon the populations of these charming animals has increased over the last few years.

This is all due to careful and dedicated conservation work by the Wildlife Trust with local landowners, and dozens of volunteers carrying out surveys. Water voles are now a much more common sight along streams and rivers such as the River Chess and River Misbourne in Buckinghamshire.

This work was carried out with support from the Environment Agency, the Canal & River Trust and Thames Water. But external funding is starting to dry up, and the future of the water voles is in jeopardy.

Julia Lofthouse, BBOWT’s Water Vole Project officer is leading the Wildlife Trust’s fundraising appeal:  “Although we’ve seen an increase in water vole populations, in some areas by almost 60%, they can disappear as readily as they arrive.

“My worry is that if we turn our backs, even momentarily, all our good work could be undone, and signal the end for some of our local water vole colonies,” says Julia.

BBOWT set up the Water Vole Recovery Project, the first of its kind in the UK, in response to the awful results of a national water vole survey carried out in 1990. This showed that water voles had vanished from 94% of their habitats throughout the country – a serious threat to the survival of this much-loved animal.

The decline of water vole populations over the last half of the 20th century coincided with changes in the ways farmland and rivers were used. Some streams and rivers became part of industrial developments or golf courses, and banks were substantially engineered with walls that water voles cannot burrow into.

American mink, which were farmed for their fur until the early 1990s, escaped into water courses and have now become the main predator of water voles, capable of annihilating colonies within a few weeks.

As part of the BBOWT Water Vole Appeal, the Wildlife Trust has created a Water Vole Gallery of photographs and videos, some taken on BBOWT reserves, showing water voles eating and swimming. 

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