Britain’s fastest declining mammal, water voles having declined by 90% in the last 30 years due to habitat loss and predation. Since 2001 the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project has worked with landowners and volunteers to survey the population and deliver a recovery programme, including mink control and river habitat enhancement along with biennial quantitative surveys to monitor progress.
Unfortunately, the 2015 survey revealed a population decline again as mink had begun to re-appear on the river. A reinvigoration of the mink control scheme followed and water vole numbers have begun to increase again. The results of the latest survey showed the population had recovered to 64% of the 2001 population.
The success of the R. Chess water vole recovery scheme has been largely a result of the commitment of the project’s partners, landowners and volunteers who have supported the water vole surveys and mink control as well as helping to improve habitat throughout the life of the scheme. The R. Chess water vole recovery scheme demonstrates the effectiveness of local projects to reverse the decline of water voles and serves as a model for other projects.