Water voles returning to River Ver north of St Albans after 30 years
- Credit: Russell Savory
After an absence of more than 30 years, endangered water voles are set to be reintroduced to the River Ver next spring.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT), working alongside the Ver Valley Society and local river owners, will be bringing the animals to the Ver Valley north of St Albans, the first time they will have been seen in the river since 1987.
Around 150 water voles will be reintroduced to this stretch of the Ver as part of an ambitious programme to expand the territory of the animals in the county. The habitat in that stretch of river provides the perfect conditions for water voles: dense bankside vegetation and clean water.
Water voles, typically found in healthy chalk rivers, are under serious threat from habitat loss – the majority of England’s rivers are polluted and of poor ecological quality – and predation by non-native American mink. Since the 1950s, water vole populations have decreased by over 90 per cent.
HMWT conservation manager Tim Hill explained: “This is a major breakthrough for wildlife in the Ver Valley. Water voles are Britain’s fastest-declining mammal and need our help now – but it’s not too late to bring them back from the brink, as this and other projects in the area prove.”
The project is funded by the Debs Foundation, a charitable trust that supports animal welfare and wildlife charities.
David Gittleson from the foundation said: “We are delighted to award a grant to Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust for a major programme to reintroduce the water vole to the River Ver. We believe it is important to help save this endangered animal and we are very impressed with the planning done for the scheme. We very much look forward to working with the trust and the Ver Valley Society who have been so supportive.”
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HMWT is working with landowners including Gorhambury Estate as well as Ver Valley Society who are keen to see water voles in the river again.
Ver Valley Society chairman John Pritchard added: “Our society has been working hard for years to enhance the environment through practical works and lobbying for restoration of the Ver. Bringing back water voles to the Ver Valley is recognition of the quality of the habitat and capitalises on the prospect of improved flows.”