Six questions with ranger Roisin Black

Malham Tarn, Yorkshire Dales

Roisin Black - Malham Tarn
Ranger Roisin Black

Why are you reintroducing water voles to Malham Tarn?

In the rest of Europe water voles are common. But in Britain the creatures are incredibly rare. We know water voles have thrived at Malham Tarn in the past. By reintroducing water voles to the Tarn, we hope to give these rare animals the chance to recolonise the streams in and around Malham. 

How do you reintroduce a water vole? 

The water voles have been bred down in Devon by vole expert Derek Gow. When they arrive on site they’re transferred into large pens near the water. Whilst they’re in the pens we prepare apples and carrots for the voles; they have a real sweet tooth.
After a couple of days in the pens, boards are added to the front of the pens and the water voles make their own way into the water. Once the pens are removed, we’ll continue to monitor the water voles. 

How will the water voles help? 

Water voles will graze the river banks, creating a variety of vegetation heights and giving rarer flora the chance to compete. The animals also provide an important food source for struggling predators like barn owls and otters.  

What’s the best thing about being ranger at Malham Tarn? 

I like doing something different every day. In the summer I enjoy taking people out on flower walks, telling the stories behind common wildflowers. My favourite has to be eyebright, a beautiful wee flower that was once used by ladies to make their eyes appear brighter. 

Is there a ranger job you hate doing? 

Once a year we have to clean out some ponds on the estate. They’re used for pond dipping and a breeding ground for dragonflies. The ponds are deceptively deep and the muck that we’re clearing from the pond’s bottom stinks. I’m 5’2” – so I have to watch my step.

Favourite thing to see at Malham Tarn? 

There’s so much amazing wildlife to see it’s hard to have a favourite. In the autumn, when the nights move in, I love seeing the barn owls hunting around the Tarn.

See how we're caring for water voles

See the water voles up close as the rangers release 100 of them into the streams around Malham Tarn.