Water voles return to Malham Tarn after fifty year absence

Endangered water voles are returning to Malham Tarn
Published : 15 Aug 2016 Last update : 19 Aug 2016

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


The charismatic water vole – inspiration for Ratty, hero of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows – is Britain’s fastest declining wild mammal. Once common, the creatures have disappeared from almost 90% of rivers and streams where they once lived. 


Two hundred water voles will be released over two years. The water voles have been specially bred for us by Derek Gow Consultancy, an ecological consultancy with 18 years’ experience working on wildlife reintroduction projects.


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 water voles will also provide a food source for struggling predators like barn owls and otters. 
Roisin Black, National Trust Ranger at Malham Tarn, said: “In the rest of Europe, water voles are common. In Britain, the creatures are incredibly rare. We know water voles have thrived at Malham Tarn in the past. With no records of mink in the Tarn for two decades, the habitat here is perfect for water voles again. 
“By reintroducing water voles to the Tarn, we hope to give these rare animals the chance to recolonise streams in the high Yorkshire Dales.” 
Rangers will monitor the health of the water vole population over the coming years. It is hoped that the animals will recolonise the Tarn and its surrounding streams.
Ranger Roisin Black

Six questions with Malham Tarn ranger Roisin Black 

Roisin is one of the rangers helping to reintroduce water voles. Here she tells us about her work, what she loves about being a ranger and what to spot in the wildlife-rich Malham Tarn.

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