Water vole numbers declined dramatically throughout the 20th century and that decline continues today. Naturally Native will tackle the two main causes of decline: predation by introduced American mink and poor quality fragmented riparian habitat. This project will operate at a landscape scale where public engagement and volunteering will be at the heart of its success and is a partnership between Northumbria, Tees valley and Durham Wildlife Trusts.
Thanks to players of the National Lottery water vole surveys have been carried out across the region in order to build up the body of knowledge about the water vole and mink population.
Consultations are being carried out with local communities, landowners and a range of local stakeholders to gather support for the project and develop a body of volunteers who will support the project during the delivery phase.
Work at this scale, in a region whose major settlements and industrial heritage are so characterised by its river systems, has never been attempted before. The team will be working to create better conditions for water voles and help to restore wildlife in rivers and streams.
Mink will systematically be removed following good practice guidance and animal welfare will be paramount.
Where water courses need habitat improvement scrub will be removed and a more diverse range of native food plants installed to create better conditions for water vole populations to grow and expand. This will help once isolated and fragmented populations link up, increasing population numbers and genetic diversity.
Education will be a fundamentally important component of Naturally Native with a strong focus on engaging with 14-25 year olds. An innovative educational programme will engage with new and diverse audiences and use the plight of the water vole as an opportunity to highlight species and habitat loss; broader issues around native and non-native species; the threats facing rivers and wetlands and the wider social benefits of a healthy, thriving natural environment.
Restore Our Planet are pleased to be supporting this excellent project.