Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling for volunteers to take part in its annual survey to find out where water voles are living and where they are most in need of conservation action.
The latest survey comes four years after the charity launched the first-ever National Water Vole Monitoring Programme (NWVMP).
With their glossy brown or black fur, small round eyes, blunt muzzle and furry tail, water voles are extremely endearing. Yet sadly, they are also extremely endangered, having experienced the most rapid and serious decline of any British wild mammal in the last century.
There are various factors behind their decline, from loss and fragmentation of their natural habitat and agricultural intensification, to pollution of watercourses and predation by non-native American mink.
The impact of mink has been particularly devastating – between 1989 and 1998 the water vole population crashed by almost 90%.
To help save this species, volunteers are asked to survey one of PTES’ 850 pre-selected sites across England, Wales and Scotland between the 15th April – 15th June.
New sites can also be registered if there isn’t a pre-selected site nearby. Once a site has been chosen or a new site registered, it just needs to be surveyed once and all sightings and signs of water voles along a 500m length of riverbank recorded online.
Volunteers need to register online and after that simply enter their postcode to find the closest survey site or register a suitable site near where they live.
No previous experience is required, but those taking part will need to learn how to identify water voles and their signs, information about which is also on PTES’ website.
Emily Thomas, Key Species Data & Monitoring Officer at PTES, says: “Water voles used to be found in almost every waterway in England, Scotland and Wales, but sadly now their numbers are declining dramatically.
“These adorable mammals need all the help they can get, so we hope as many people as possible, in all corners of Britain, sign up to survey a site this spring.
“We use the data gathered to monitor population trends year on year, which in turn helps to guide our conservation work and inform us where action is needed most.”