Water Voles

water vole pictureWater vole picture by Margaret Holland

Water vole numbers have declined rapidly across the country. We are helping to protect these mammals by working with neighbouring wildlife trusts, landowners and land managers.

The water vole is Britain’s most rapidly declining mammal. Where once this beautiful little creature was a common sight along rivers and streams across the country, its populations are now greatly reduced in size, fragmented and declining.

Thankfully, water voles respond quickly to habitat improvements and will readily colonise newly created wetland habitats. With your help, there is a good chance that we can put Derbyshire’s water voles back on the road to recovery

Why are they declining?

The long term decline of the water vole has been caused by the loss of their wetland habitat. Drainage of marshes and ponds, engineering works on river banks, agricultural intensification and building development have all contributed to the dramatic loss of water vole habitat during the last one hundred years or more. Remaining populations are fragmented, leaving them more vulnerable to predation by American mink, flooding events and excessive disturbance.

Water voles have fairly simple requirements; slow, deep water; stable water levels; banks for burrowing and lush vegetation, so if you have a river, stream, ditch or pond on your land, you may already be providing homes for water voles.

Where and when can I see them?

Water voles are active during the day and are relatively easy to spot. If numbers are low, you may need to search for their field signs to detect their presence. They are best looked for during the breeding season, between February and October, when they are at their most territorial. During the winter months, they are much less active and spend more time in their burrow systems underground.

Water voles are legally protected and are highlighted as a priority species for conservation in Biodiversity Action Plans at national and local level.

We have produced a range of leaflets about water voles in the uplands.

Seen a water vole? Fill in our recording form.


FilenameFile size
Distribution.pdf779.26 KB
Ditches.pdf681.84 KB
Habitat creation.pdf1.32 MB
Surveying.pdf1.01 MB
Taking action to protect water voles.pdf801.97 KB