Water voles, which are almost extinct in many other parts of Britain, have made an astonishing comeback on the Somerset Levels thanks to a major conservation scheme in the region.
The aim of the project, which is being led by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), is to clear the West Country of mink, which have caused significant damage to water vole populations across the region, as well as many other species.
Three mink-trapping workshops have been held in the area and coordinated trapping is now taking place across the Levels. Within the BASC-led trapping team there are Natural England’s national nature reserve wardens, nature reserve volunteers, RSPB wardens, wildfowlers, university research teams, fishery owners, and county Wildlife Trust staff.
To date approximately 328 mink have been trapped and there is evidence to suggest that there are increasing areas of the Levels that could now be considered to be ‘mink free’.
BASC’s Somerset Levels Conservation Officer, Robin Marshall-Ball, said: “This is a real conservation success story, and an indication of what can be achieved when many conservation groups pull together for a common purpose. It has also paved the way for a number of other joint conservation projects between BASC members and other countryside stakeholders.”
Natural England’s advisor, Stephen Parker, said: “Working with partners to ensure sympathetic management and predator control on the levels has reaped significant benefits for the water vole. The once common and widespread creature can now flourish again in the well managed wetlands of the Somerset Levels & Moors.”