Water vole are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meaning it is an offence to kill, injure or take a wild water vole as well as damage or destroy places it uses for shelter, as well as disturb them while occupying these. In addition water vole are a priority conservation species listed under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 which requires public authorities to have regard to the species when carrying out their day to day functions.
Natural England published ‘A Review of the Population and Conservation Status of British Mammals’, which identifies and confirms areas of work where continued resource should be placed to conserve and enhance water vole populations.
The Environment Agency works with partners to deliver water vole recovery projects at a number of sites across the South West, including habitat improvements, mink control, surveying and reintroductions. The Agency has partnered with the Westland Countryside Stewards and Biffa to repopulate the Bude catchment. Since summer 2012, approximately 550 water voles have been released. The reintroduction programme is promising with sightings in almost all release sites, as well as sites where they have moved into. Field sightings suggest that the water vole population is stable and the project has been successful. In addition, the River Tale in East Devon now also supports a stable population of water vole following a recovery project in the area.