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Water voles reintroduced at Thorley Wash

Thursday 11th June 2015

Water Vole - Paul ThrushWater Vole - Paul Thrush

Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve at Thorley Wash is now home to over 160 endangered water voles as part of an ambitious project to reintroduce water voles into the river Stort.

In a joint project between the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust, the voles were transferred from a reserve in Essex. The voles were soon to find themselves ‘homeless’ in Essex following plans to flood their territory in Fingringhoe Wick nature reserve, near Colchester, as part of a separate inter-tidal habitat creation project. 

Water vole reintroductionThe water voles were carefully collected and transported to their new Hertfordshire home by experts where they were gradually introduced in release pens.

Herts and Middlesex’s Thorley Wash Nature Reserve was specially chosen for the project on account of its abundant and well-established water vole habitat. Once established at Thorley Wash, it is hoped that the water voles will be able to spread along the corridor of wet flushes, ponds, channels and the main Stort Navigation.

The Trust’s Water Vole Conservation Officer, Martin Ketcher, tells us why the project is so important.

The much-loved water vole, brought so vividly to life by Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Ratty’ in The Wind in the Willows, is in danger of becoming more fiction than fact. Once abundant in our waterways, water voles have suffered a catastrophic population decline in recent decades, to the point where they are now the ‘UK’s fastest declining mammal’.

This steep decline owes partly to the loss of river bank habitat but is chiefly due to mass predation by invasive American mink. 

Without urgent action it is possible that water voles could soon become extinct within Hertfordshire, as they have already been lost entirely from several Hertfordshire rivers including the Stort. Once this has occurred problems with habitat loss become much more significant. Populations become isolated and the need for conservation management on the whole of the river becomes important if the species is to re-colonise.

Although there is some recent evidence of water voles spreading gradually in some places across Hertfordshire and Middlesex this is very limited. The opportunity to re-introduce the species on such a large scale is a tremendous boost to their overall conservation.

Special thanks to the volunteers who made this project possible. It was fantastic to see so many people getting behind this important project.  

You can learn more about water voles in the species section of our website and about national water vole conservation on the Wildlife Trusts website

Watch ITV Anglia News footage of the voles being reintroduced. 

Tagged with: Species