Water Vole Recovery Project

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Water vole at Freemans Marsh, Berkshire, by Kiran GarsideWater vole at Freemans Marsh in Berkshire by Kiran Garside, Water Vole Recovery Project Surveyor

The water vole is Britain’s fastest declining mammal

The water vole, a favourite character in the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows, has lost a staggering 95% of its range since 1900.This is largely due to habitat destruction and the introduction of a voracious predator, the American mink.

BBOWT’s Water Vole Recovery Project, the longest standing local project in the UK dedicated to water vole conservation, has continued to work to help the water vole populations in the three counties. Working in partnership with the Environment Agency, the Canal & River Trust and Thames Water, we have been monitoring water voles, identifying habitat enhancement opportunities and influencing local landowners to manage sites sympathetically for water voles and implement mink control. 

Our work has resulted in a continued increase in the known areas of local water vole activity. In 2012 the National Water Vole Mapping Project, to which the project contributes data, suggested water vole presence had declined by 22% across England and Wales during the previous 3 years. By contrast, our Local Key Areas for water voles increased during this period and continued to increase a further 10% between 2012 and 2015, extending from 506 to 560 km2. 

Water Vole Local Key Areas 2016


American mink monitoring

Mink are an introduced predator that can decimate water vole populations. The project advocates the use of mink rafts to monitor and trap mink. We work with landowners, providing equipment and trapping advice, and aim to install rafts at 1 km intervals in and around our known water vole sites. This ensures that any mink travelling along the watercourse are quickly detected and the water vole populations are protected from predation. The project is currently co-ordinating 160 mink rafts across the three counties and currently looking to expand this in our water vole key areas. if you are interested in getting involved or spot a mink in your area do get in touch - watervole@bbowt.org.uk

Where to see and how to spot water voles

  • River Thames - visit Chimney Meadows
  • River Windrush in Witney
  • River Ock in Abingdon
  • Look out for burrows in the riverbank, often with a nibbled 'lawn' of grass around the entrance.
  • Piles of nibbled grass and stems may be found by the water's edge, showing a distinctive 45° angled-cut at the ends.
  • 'Latrines' of rounded, 'tic-tac' sized droppings may also be spotted.

Listen to Julia Lofthouse, Water Vole Project Officer, go in search of water voles along Shill Brook, Oxfordshire. 

Video kindly provided by Stephen de Vere

How you can help

There are many ways you can help us with this project:

For more information please contact the Water Vole Project Officer.

A-Z of Wildlife

Photo of Water Vole

Name: Water Vole

Scientific name: Arvicola amphibius

Category: Mammals

View full A-Z

Monitoring Wildlife

Dark Green Fritillary by Keith Warmington

We are always very keen to receive any ad hoc wildlife records you may collect from our reserves. Find out how to send your data to us.


Wychnor Washland by Nick Mott

The UK’s freshwater wetlands and waterways range from small ponds and trickling streams to gushing rivers and massive reservoirs. Freshwater habitats are rich with underwater wildlife and also support huge numbers of plants, insects and birds, that live on and around their edges. Find out about wetlands and waterways.