Water Vole Reintroduction Project
Water voles were once common across the whole of the UK but declined due to habitat loss and predation by non-native American mink. In Cornwall, water voles became extinct, with the last confirmed sightings in Par, Godolphin and Bude in the 1990s.
Local conservation group Kernow Conservation started a Water Vole Reintroduction Project in 2022 and Paradise Park donated £500 to support the initiative. The plan is to release several hundred animals in suitable habitat to help populations recover and spread, providing benefits to birds & mammals but also to plant diversity. Kernow Conservation’s work with water voles in Cornwall is only just beginning – with support they can develop and expand their activities to restore and protect water voles to more areas, plus educate and inspire more people about their ecological importance. Visit their website for ways in which you can help.
We were lucky to be invited to help with the first release of 150 Water Voles at Trelusback Farm, southern Cornwall, in August 2022 and they hope to release the same number in June 2023.
The water vole is the largest of the UK’s voles, weighing 200-350g as an adult, (which is up to 10 times larger than other vole species!) meaning they are a substantial food source for many predators, including barn owls, kestrels, herons, foxes, otters, stoats, weasels, and pike. In conjunction with their size, water voles have been recorded to have varied diets that can include over 200 plant species and are thus considered a keystone species, as their feeding and burrowing activities create habitats and opportunities for many other animals and plants to thrive.
All photos by Paradise Park Director Alison Hales from the first release.