Water voles and the law

Water vole, Maggie CampbellWater vole, Maggie Campbell

Water voles are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

This legal protection makes it an offence to:

  • intentionally kill, injure or take (capture) a water vole; possess or control a live or dead water vole, or any part of a water vole
  • intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which water voles use for shelter or protection or disturb water voles while they are using such a place
  • sell, offer for sale or advertise for live or dead water voles

Offences under Section 9 carry a maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding Level 5 on the standard scale (currently £5,000), imprisonment for up to six months, or both. In addition, the courts may order the forfeiture of any vehicle or other thing that was used to commit the offence.

Licences are available from Natural England to allow activities that would otherwise be offences for:

  • scientific or educational purposes
  • the purpose of ringing or marking
  • conserving wild animals or introducing them to particular areas
  • preserving public health or public safety
  • preventing the spread of disease
  • preventing serious damage to any form of property or to fisheries