Having suffered a staggering decline in the last sixty years, water voles living near a housing development on the River Went are receiving the help they need.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is working with land management experts Greenbelt Group to re-create lost water vole habitat at Westwinds, near Ackworth as part of their new Living Went Project.

Water voles were once a common sight in Yorkshire, but over the last 60 years they have declined by a startling ninety seven per cent. Experts say this has been largely due to habitat loss, which is why the Trust is embarking on its exciting habitat restoration project.

The River Went area around Featherstone and Pontefract is one of the last remaining water vole strongholds in West Yorkshire, but even here the population has become fragmented, which makes it harder for the voles to recover following adverse weather conditions such as flooding and harsh winters. It also makes them more susceptible to predation from animals such as the introduced American mink.

A spokesman for the Trust said, “It is vital to re-connect isolated pockets of the water vole population and this is why Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has teamed up with Greenbelt Group to re-create a lost habitat of small ponds and wetlands adjacent to the Westwinds housing development near Featherstone. This work will provide the ideal home for one of our best-loved wild animals and will hopefully join-up the water vole colonies which are present both up and downstream on the Went Beck. This will strengthen the local population and allow them to survive and prosper. This is the helping hand that this very special mammal needs to become a common sight along our waterways once more.”

The Westwinds project is part of the ‘Living Went Project’ which is aiming to re-naturalise and re-connect the River Went. For more information email project assistant Jon Dunster at jonathan.dunster@ywt.org.uk.

This project is funded by SITA Trust who provides funding through the Landfill Communities Fund. Funding is available for community and environmental groups to carry out a range of improvement projects.

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