Water voles have been brought back from the brink of extinction in Somerset thanks to a campaign of mink control led by the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).
The water vole, which is Britain’s most endangered mammal, is rapidly re-colonising parts of the Somerset Levels where they have been absent for many decades.
BASC members, local wildfowling clubs and shooting syndicates have helped to remove more than 400 mink and carry out riverside habitat management work which are the crucial factors to permit the return of the water vole.
The mink control team also includes fishery owners, local Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers, RSPB and Natural England wardens. The team also monitors the water vole population and says that as the number of mink has been reduced, there has been a surge in the number of water voles across the Somerset Levels.
The project is part-funded by the Environment Agency and Natural England and co-ordinated by BASC’s South West biodiversity officer, Robin Marshall-Ball, who said: “The Somerset Environmental Record Centre conducted a wide-ranging survey in 2009 which confirms that the water vole is rapidly returning to areas of the Somerset Levels where they have been not been seen for years. This is a major success story and shows just what can be done when different organizations are committed to working together for a common goal. Now that my remit has expanded to cover Dorset I am also working to set a similar network of volunteers in the west of that county and hope for similar success."
The project is part of BASC’s Green Shoots programme which uses the knowledge and resources of the shooting community to achieve conservation targets set in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.