Voles reintroduced to River Dore [BBC 2006-06-30]
[Photo] Water voles will be reintroduced to the River Dore in Herefordshire
Conservationists hope the release of 500 young water voles will give the species a major boost by repopulating an entire river.
Water voles are among the most charismatic of river creatures but have declined in numbers in the last 100 years, the Game Conservancy Trust said.
The trust's conservation project, which starts on Friday, aims to halt this.
Some 50 colonies will be released along 18 miles of the River Dore on the Herefordshire-Wales border this summer.
The first release will be at Vowchurch and marks the final stage of the ??1.1m River Monnow Project, one of the largest river habitat restoration projects in the UK.
Dr Jonathan Reynolds, leading the project for The Game Conservancy Trust, said: "Water voles were once very common on the River Dore but like many other places in the UK they have completely disappeared in the past 20 years.
"Loss of suitable river habitat is one contributing factor. Another major factor is predation by American mink, which is catastrophic for water voles."
He said a crucial measure had been the removal of mink from the river before the water voles were released.
The mink are caught in a raft - a trap moored near the water's edge - and then later killed. The trust said it was not practical to rehome the mink as it would only move the problem.