10. Managing the Stort Valley for Water Voles
Theme: Habitats and wildlife
- To maintain and enhance the river's natural habitats and wildlife
Water Voles are one of the UK's most threatened mammals and have been declining in numbers over recent decades. Through conservation efforts, better land management and a partnership approach, these trends are being reversed across the Stort Valley.
Water voles live along rivers, streams, ditches and in floodplain habitats like reedbeds and fen. They need a complex system of wetland habitats so that they can move freely between different areas. This is important for maintaining healthy breeding populations and for avoiding predation.
One of the biggest threats to water voles is predation by the non-native and invasive American Mink. Alongside this, declines in suitable bankside and wetland habitat led to water voles becoming extinct in the Stort Valley by 2015.
To address this, the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust worked in partnership to launch a re-introduction programme at two nature reserves, Thorley Wash in 2015 and Sawbridgeworth Marsh in 2017.
These sites are managed with water voles in mind to maintain a complex system of open water and reedbed habitats. Water voles continue to thrive in these reserves and are now spreading to other sites along the Stort Valley, such as Rushy Mead nature reserve.
Part of this project is a coordinated effort to contorl mink populations throughout the Stort Valley. This is being coordinated by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust across Hertfordshire, and Essex Wildlife Trust across Essex.
If you are interested in becoming a water vole surveyor and helping to monitor mink populations, please contact: