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Water voles

Mark Swaby

Senior Member
My local river the Colne in West London had a massive population of water voles when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's.The release of Mink from farms devastated the population and they became extinct. This season on one stretch I manage we have started to see a few return. Its like being back in time and a big thumbs up to what we are doing on our river habitat . Do you see any water voles on the rivers you fish or are they as rare as reported.
Hey Mark, one thing I noticed on the Teme was that not long after the otters arrived, the mink were much less obvious. I reckon the otters pushed the mink out. Now I know that mink prey on water voles, but I'm not so sure otters have the same appetite/ability to catch them. Soooo, maybe the arrival of otters has helped restore the water vole population? It's a thought.
(Not seen voles on the Teme though, before or after the otters arrived).
I definitely see a lot less of them across Cheshire now then I did 10-15 years ago. A perfect storm of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and mink predation has hammered them.

Water voles are fecund little blighters, a classic r-selected species, so when you do come across them, its not unusual to find a lot of them. Being such prolific breeders they are pretty good at coping at a population level with predation from otters, but mink really are the kiss of death. Whilst otters might opportunistically predate a small proportion of a colony, mink are small enough to enter their burrows. As such they can wipe out a whole breeding colony in a relatively short space of time.

There is some evidence that otters displace mink, not necessarily by intraguild predation and competition as one might assume. Interestingly some studies have found that the proportion of fish in minks diet declines notably when their territories overlap - I guess there are two very differing conclusions that could be drawn from that..