Water Voles

In the U.K. water voles used to be very common, on every river bank. But their numbers and habitats have been decimated, literally: reduced by 90%. Several reasons:

All these result from the activity of humanity - but, worse, from activity of humanity that is in many cases unnecessary or even frivolous.

Building and Construction

Many of the areas of banks and meadows they inhabited have been built over. Water courses have been diverted and in doing so have been given hard banks. Sewage outfall. Vandalism and disturbance.

Shoring up of River Banks

In many places, because of motorized water craft causes waves that erode the banks, the banks have been shored up with concrete or corrugated iron or stones. Voles make their holes in the banks, but cannot make them in these materials. Result: no homes, no nests, no young, no population.


Mink, that used to be kept on fur farms for their fur, have escaped (in some cases been driven out when the fur farm owners feared financial losses). The problem is not so much the indiginous British mink, but the American variety, which was imported just after World War II. It is fast enough in water to catch the voles and small enough to enter their burrows. After the loss of their habitat, this mink is the proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back.


(I merely heard this was a cause, and do not precisely what problems it brings.) Angling has become not only more popular but also more commercialised and hi-tech. Bringing at least nuisance and disturbance. Possibly other problems.


First level causes:

Second level causes:

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 1999. Comments, queries welcome..

Last updated: 7 February 2001 email. 16 May 2011 link to andrew repaired, unet gone.