I have been thinking about photographing water voles for a while. The main problem was where to start with numbers having suffered such a catastrophic decline. The key reasons for the decline, of this once common rodent, may be attributed to both habitat loss and fragmentation and the appearance of an 'alien' invader. The habitat requirements appear to be fairly straight forward being a slow flowing watercourse with a diverse abundance of aquatic and bank-side vegetation, banks that can be burrowed in to and minimal disturbance. However, the routine maintenance clearing of drainage channels to assist in the conveyance of flows and loss of river floodplains have all taken their toll on the vole. The other main factor has been the arrival and establishment of the American mink in the UK countryside through releases from fur farms. Some of these releases have been deliberately undertaken by anti-fur protesters concerned about animal rights. They obviously did not think about the rights of the native UK wildlife when they opened the cages to this highly efficient predators.
Fortunately there is a much greater awareness of water voles now which have been rightly afforded full protection status for both the animals and their habitat. A great deal of effort has gone into the encouraging the animals to return naturally through habitat management and assisted through re-introduction programmes together with the implementation of control measures on mink numbers.