Water voles thrive in Britain’s highest freshwater lake
- The water vole has long been one of the animals most rapidly declining in Britain
- Many of the UK’s voles were slaughtered by American Mink living in the wild
- However water voles are now flourishing in England’s highest freshwater lake
- 100 voles were reintroduced by the National Trust in Malham Tarn, Yorkshire
A water vole nibbles on a piece of shrubbery over a Kent river
The water vole has long been one of the animals most rapidly declining in Britain.
Immortalised as river-loving ‘Ratty’ in the Wind in the Willows, the voles numbers have suffered a steep decline, dropping by around 90 per cent during the 1980s and 1990s.
Many of the water voles were slaughtered by American Mink living in the wild after escaping from fur farms.
But in a comeback against all the odds, the water voles are flourishing in England’s highest freshwater lake – where they had not been seen for more than 50 years.
The voles have been reintroduced by the National Trust, who put more than 100 in streams around Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales last August.
Now the water voles have spread around half a mile from the original site of their release. Mink have not been spotted in the lake for around ten years, so the National Trust is hopeful that the lake will be a relatively safe environment for them.
A further 100 of the voles, including siblings and breeding pairs are now set to be released over this week, to help give the reintroduction a further boost – starting from today (MONDAY).
Roisin Black, National Trust ranger at Malham Tarn, said: ‘With a mild, wet winter, we were worried that the water levels around the tarn may rise too high and flood the burrows. But it turns out that the voles have spread out across one side of the tarn.’
A water vole spotted on a small island in the freshwater pond that was able to use it as a base to reach up and grab some fresh fruit
One vole has even been caught on camera in a favourite haunt for one of the tarn’s otters – one of the predators that will occasionally target water voles.
‘An opportunistic otter might go for a water vole, but generally they can live very happily side by side,’ Mr Black said. ‘The presence of the otter helps deter the mink – which are behind water voles’ shocking declines.’
The National Trust said the move is intended to restore wildlife in the Yorkshire Dales,– England’s second largest National Park.
The water voles are helping to restore Malham Tarn’s sensitive lowland fen fringe – one of fifty ‘priority’ habitats handpicked by government as in need of support. The National Trust aims to create 25,000 hectares of new ‘priority’ nature habitats by 2025.
Mr Black added: ‘The water voles area already changing the look of the tarn-side streams. The banks used to be straight-sided, almost like canals.
‘But by burrowing into the banks, the voles have created much more natural-looking streams with shady pools that should be really good for invertebrates and small fish.’
National Trust rangers will spend the coming months surveying water voles, looking for signs like the animals’ droppings burrows and nibbled grass ends.
‘It will let us estimate the number of water voles we have here at Malham Tarn,’ he added.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online