Mink trapping has helped to boost the number of water voles, Britain’s fastest declining mammal, on a Cheshire river. The number of water voles on a 20 kilometre stretch of the River Gowy has increased over the past 18 months, thanks to work carried out as part of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation’s (BASC) Green Shoots programme.
Water vole surveys were carried out at the start of the project to establish the size of the population. Ten trapping points were set up on mink rafts along the stretch of river and since October 2008, 24 mink have been taken. The mink trappers are mainly BASC members and the project is run in partnership with the North West Water Vole Project.
The rapid decline in water vole numbers is partly attributed to the American mink.
Ben Gregory, BASC’s Cheshire biodiversity project officer, said one water vole population was discovered at the start of the project, with another being discovered last year. He said the increase in numbers was evidence that the mink trapping was working.
He said: “We have had a population recovery of water voles as a direct result of our input within two years. That is good going by any standard. Resurveying took place in 2009 and there was strong evidence of water voles in new areas. There was also evidence of a new population, namely a network of water vole burrows high up on the bank, at one of the sites we provided for surveying.”
Andrea Powell, North West Water Vole Project officer, said: "It is fantastic to see the return of water voles in such a short space of time. Mink control and habitat restoration has undoubtedly had a positive effect on the water vole populations along the Gowy. By continuing to work in partnership with BASC we are keen to see similar successes in the North West.”