Endangered water voles thriving in Yorkshire

Water vole health check before release. Image: Yorkshire Water

Two hundred water voles released into an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) by Yorkshire Water are thriving in their new habitat.

The protected rodents were released in Timble Ings Woods, owned by Yorkshire Water, in the Nidderdale AONB in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Surveys of the area have found signs of the endangered animals up to 1km away from the original release site.

Their adventurous spirit defies the advice given by the most famous fictional water vole, Ratty, in Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows: "Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World. And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any sense at all.”

Burrows, droppings and feeding signs have been spotted throughout the area, indicating the population has thrived. Regular checks for signs of the water voles’ main predator – the American mink – have found no signs of the carnivorous mammal.

Poos and footprints on a clay monitoring raft. Image: Yorkshire Water

Philip Tennyson, recreation coordinator at Yorkshire Water, said: “Water voles are one of the fastest declining mammals in Britain, having lost 97% of their former geographical range. Projects such as this release are vital for conservation, and we’re delighted that the population has established itself in this habitat.

"The signs we have seen - piles of nibbled grass and stems, as well as droppings up to 1km away – shows water voles have thrived here,"

Philip Tennyson, Yorkshire Water

“They are a key species for conservation in the Nidderdale area of outstanding natural beauty and the signs we have seen - piles of nibbled grass and stems, as well as droppings up to 1km away – shows they have thrived here.

“While this is a successful project, water voles are particularly sensitive to disturbance and the good work we’ve done so far can easily be lost. We would urge visitors to Timble Ings Woods to stay on the paths and keep dogs on a lead away from the ponds and watercourses to protect the fragile water vole population.”

Timble Ings Woods near Swinsty and Fewston Reservoir. Image: Yorkshire Water