Water vole

European otter


Water for Wildlife

Water vole

Water for Wildlife in Suffolk is part of a unique partnership supporting wetland conservation at Wildlife Trusts across the UK. Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Water for Wildlife Project aims to make a major contribution towards the restoration and protection of wetland habitat and wildlife, delivering practical conservation benefits for a range of important species and habitats and raising awareness of the importance of wetlands as a living landscape for people and wildlife.

The Project has been running since 2003 and is funded by Anglian Water, Essex & Suffolk Water and the Environment Agency.

Water vole

Suffolk has a great resource of potential water vole habitat with river valleys, coastal grazing marshes, ponds, ditches, lakes, fens and reedbeds. Since the project started in 2003, every river catchment in the county has been surveyed for water vole, and the results showed a dramatic decline in water vole populations since the previous county survey done in 1998. Habitat loss and predation by American mink, a non-native species, exacerbated this situation as they can wipe out whole colonies of water voles in only a matter of months. This accelerated the rate of water vole decline during the 1990s.

Having established the water vole’s precarious status in Suffolk, the Water for Wildlife Project focussed on the two main factors responsible for this unprecedented decline:

• working with landowners to improve management practices to improve water vole habitat and to ensure all protected species legislation is followed
• setting up a mink control programme throughout the county to reduce predation on water vole

The good news is that further surveys from 2007-2010 confirm that with mink control in place, water vole have made a recovery throughout our water-courses and are once again a feature of river habitat.













Distribution of water vole in Suffolk Oct 2008 (an updated map will be online soon) 


Otter distribution has increased significantly in Suffolk in the last ten years and the animals are now widespread throughout our river catchments and along the coastal waters. From 2004-2012 otter activity was monitored each winter by an enthusiastic team of volunteer surveyors, who undertook an annual survey of the county’s rivers. This work, co-ordinated by Water for Wildlife, is now being taken over by the Suffolk Mammal Group.

  • If you are interested in helping out please get in touch with the mammal group













Otter distribution in Suffolk 2005 (an updated map will be online soon)

Stillwater fisheries, fish farms and garden fish ponds provide otters and other predators with an easy and abundant food supply and are at risk of being found by an otter even if they are some distance from a major water-course. There has been concern from fishery owners/managers for some years about the increase in otter predation, and in response to this concern, the Environment Agency, The Wildlife Trusts and the Water for Wildlife partnership published guidance on how to manage the impact of otters on fisheries (‘Otters and stillwater fisheries’, 2008). Otter is a fully protected species under British and European law therefore the only advice is to prevent otters accessing fishing lakes by installing otter proof fencing. The publication offers detailed specifications and can be downloaded from the Natural England website on the Wildlife management - licensing page.

Farm advisory visits

Working closely with Natural England the project adviser makes visits to farms all over the county to give advice on wetland management particularly ditch management, best practice, timing of works and protected species legislation. If you would like a visit, please get in touch.










Best management practice for water-courses: leaving one bank intact as a refuge for wildlife

Non native species

Non-native species are causing major problems in the countryside as they spread rapidly taking over rivers and ponds and choking the native flora. If you think you have seen: water fern, parrots feather, floating pennywort, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam or New Zealand Pigmyweed, please contact the Trust with a grid reference of the location. If you have any of these plants in your ditches, ponds or streams, and would like advice on how to manage them, please contact the Project Adviser.




Volunteer training

The project adviser holds training for otter and water vole surveying throughout the year. Everyone is welcome and new volunteers are always needed. Browse the full list of adult courses.

Volunteers learning how to survey for water vole For more information contact: Penny Hemphill, Water for Wildlife Adviser


European otter (Lutra lutra)
Otter are listed on Schedule 5 and 6 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and Schedule II and IV of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 (which also implements the Berne Convention 1979, where otter is listed in Appendix II). It is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or trap an otter or be in possession of a live or dead otter or any part of one or intentionally damage, destroy or obstruct access or disturb any otter shelter or animal while occupying such shelter.

Water vole (Arvicola terrestris)
Water vole is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended April 2008), and is a fully protected species. It is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take a water vole; possess or control a live or dead water vole; intentionally damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which water voles use for shelter or protection, or disturb water voles using such a place.

Suffolk Mink Control Programme

In order to meet BAP targets for water vole, the Water for Wildlife Project set up and co-ordinates mink control in Suffolk. There are over 300 landowners borrowing mink traps and rafts and since the project began over 2500 mink have been trapped. Water vole are now returning to river catchments where mink control is ongoing. SWT is now working with the Norfolk Mink Project to undertake mink control along the River Waveney that borders Suffolk and Norfolk.

If you think mink are causing a problem on your land and would like to join the project, please contact the Project Adviser.

 Mink raft




















Distribution of mink rafts and traps in Suffolk December 2008 - Map by SBRC 
(an updated map will be online soon)

River restoration

In 2012-2013 we completed walkover surveys of 400km of our rivers for the Environment Agency and projects to enhance, restore re-naturalise our rivers are underway. Major river restoration projects have already been completed on the Little Ouse at Knettishall Heath and Blo Norton under the direction of Dr Nigel Holmes and EA. Further restoration projects are underway in 2014 along the Little Ouse which is one of Suffolk’s most engineered rivers.
Working with the available substrate within the channel, new shoulders, riffles and pools create a sinuous channel bringing the river to life with new energy. Channel diversity is restored creating a self cleansing water course enhancing the habitat for river wildlife.