Water voles

Lake surrounded by reeds

As a conservation charity, it's vital that we protect our landscapes, to help conserve the wildlife which calls it home. Every time you visit your local countryside beauty spot, you're helping us achieve this.

How to spot a water vole

You can find water voles along river banks, ponds and streams. They live in burrows, normally near to slow moving water and are often mistaken for greedy rats, because of their brown fur and long tail.

When you’re tracking water voles look out for little piles of chewed plants. You can sometimes see their small star-shaped paw prints in soft mud.

Endangered water voles are returning to Malham Tarn
Endangered water voles are returning to Malham Tarn

Water vole conservation at Malham Tarn

Around 100 water voles are being reintroduced into Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales. This is the highest water vole reintroduction project ever carried out in Britain.  

Our ecologists believe Malham Tarn’s water voles were wiped out in the 1960s by mink, which escaped from fur farms nearby.

We’re reintroducing the water voles as part of our major new vision for land management in the Yorkshire Dales. The voles will play an important part in the ecosystem at Malham Tarn, grazing areas of the riverbank and providing the space for rare plants to grow. The animals also provide an important food source for struggling predators like barn owls and otters.

" In Britain water voles are incredibly rare. We know they have thrived at Malham Tarn in the past. By reintroducing water voles to the Tarn, we hope to give them the chance to recolonise the streams in and around Malham. "
- Roisin Black, ranger at Malham Tarn


Need some help to discover these rare creatures at our special places? We've got it covered.

Water vole by the river

Water voles at Avebury, Wiltshire 

Since water voles are one of Britain’s rarest mammals and are a protected species due to its declining numbers, it's great news that they can be found on the river and streams near Avebury.

View towards Hardwick Hall from Miller's pond

Water voles at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire 

Miller’s pond at Hardwick, which is accessible to all, is the best place to spot wildlife. As you walk through the historic duck decoy you may see the rare and elusive water vole and kingfisher.

A water vole perches on a wooden post

Water voles at Malham Tarn, North Yorkshire 

One of Britain’s most endangered mammals is returning to England’s highest freshwater lake after a fifty year absence, thanks to our rangers. Around a hundred water voles are being reintroduced into the National Trust’s Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales. This is the highest water vole reintroduction project ever carried out in Britain.

Wicken Fen - Bird Watchers and Sunset over Sedge Fen

Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire 

Wicken Fen was the first nature reserve owned by the National Trust. Today it is home to over 9000 recorded species. You'll want to spend the whole day spotting birds, wild flowers, and if you are lucky a water vole or two.