After an absence of more than 30 years, The Box Moor Trust returned Water Voles to Hemel Hempstead this September!

Where did the water voles go?

Sadly, they disappeared in local waterways and most of the country in the latter part of the 20th Century. Reduction of habitats, poor water quality and piling of canal banks started the decline but the major problem was the spread of non-native Mink as a result of escape and deliberate release from Mink Farms.

Key to success - Mink control

The Mink had to go and the habitat had to be right. A project planned by the Box Moor Trust with the help of Martin Ketcher (Water Vole Officer) from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust began 3 years ago and has involved much hard work by volunteers to monitor Mink and get habitats right. It has also needed help from local fishery managers to reduce Mink and this has been a key element of the project. It has been a dream of many local people to see the Voles return but it has taken a lot of planning. It would not have been possible without our volunteers. Affinity Water and the Canals and Rivers Trust have provided crucial grant funding.

Reintroducing water voles

The Box Moor Trust introduced 177 Water Voles to the River Bulbourne and the local canal on 3rd September. The voles were captive bred in Devon. A national expert, Derek Gow, who has dealt with a number of introductions across the Country has advised throughout. A large Team of Trust volunteers is placing special pens in a number of locations and the voles are to be fed throughout the week in their pen to acclimatise them. They are then released to fend for themselves. Members of the Trust’s Junior Wildlife Rangers will enjoy the experience of feeding and releasing them.

Habitat improvements along the River Bullbourne

The award winning River Bulbourne improvement in Boxmoor supported by the Environment Agency and the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project was a major step forward. The protection to the river banks by the initially unpopular fencing has produced an ideal chalk stream habitat. There are also miles of stream, river and canal bank owned by the Trust elsewhere locally that are good habitat. Mink numbers have plummeted in Boxmoor. The monitoring of Mink Rafts over 3 years has backed this up.

What comes next?

This is only the first of 3 phases. More voles will be introduced in different parts of the Trust land for 2 more years subject to securing funding. The vision is that this project will bring about a successful and sustainable local population. If so it could be important on a wider scale as it could then be a catalyst to see other land owners work with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust to bring the Voles back from Tring to Rickmansworth.  

Long-term aspirations

The Box Moor Trust hopes to introduce more Voles in two more annual phases to increase the genetic base and increase the chance of success. The Box Moor Trust believe that in the longer term, the best chance secure a sustained population locally is for a successful introduction to be organised in the Gade and Canal  between the Grove and Cassiobury Park, where Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has a reserve. Male voles naturally seek out other populations and have been known to cover up to 8 miles.

Want to help?

You can help by reporting Mink sightings to the Trust or volunteering to monitor water Voles. If you want to join as a volunteer monitor and receive training, then please contact The Box Moor Trust admin team on 01442 253300.

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting. From an original concept by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.