Hundreds of Water Voles released in Lake District


Some 365 Water Voles have been released in the Lake District National Park as part of a long-term programme to re-establish the mammal in the area.

Haweswater received the bulk of the rodents, with 204 released, not long after 161 were rehomed on the Lowther Estate. It marked the end of the initial phase of the first reintroduction programme to take place in the national park since Water Vole was virtually wiped out – mainly due to habitat loss, pollution and the devastation caused by the non-native American Mink.

Water Voles were released at two different sites in the Lake District (Ben Challis / ERT).

River conservation charity, Eden Rivers Trust (ERT), was awarded money from the Environment Agency's Water Environment Improvement Fund (WEIF), The Moorhouse Fund (Cumbria Community Foundation) and Ernest Cook Trust to work with landowners and volunteers to find suitable sites, make necessary improvements to habitats and take steps to control non-native predators ahead of this summer's reintroduction.

Dave Greaves, Species and Habitat Officer at ERT, said: "The conditions must be right to successfully reintroduce Water Voles and a wide range of partners have worked closely with us to get to this point. Firstly, Lowther Estates and the RSPB/United Utilities' commitment to landscape-scale river restoration and habitat improvement projects has created the variety of river and wetland habitats needed for Water Voles to thrive.

"Secondly, control of invasive, non-native American Mink had to be in place as they kill Water Voles and other native wildlife. Water voles didn't co-evolve with American Mink, and so lack strategies to avoid predation. We now have a more effective and efficient way of controlling mink – working with landowners and the local community so that the water voles stand a better chance of survival.

"Finally, more funding is now becoming available as nature recovery rises up the agenda of government and nature-friendly farming and land management is adopted."