Operation Water Vole: American mink control strategy

The American mink, Neovison vison, is a highly damaging, invasive, non-native species. They were originally imported for fur-farming, but escapes and releases from the 1950s to 1990s have led to mink becoming widespread in the UK. Mink are active predators, feeding on anything they are big enough to catch, including ground-nesting birds and our native water voles, which are now under threat of extinction. Mink are good swimmers and females are small enough to enter the water-line burrows of water voles and take their young.  Often the first sign of mink is a reduction in moorhens which nest on the water edge and so are an easy quarry for mink.  A female mink will have one litter with between four and six young each year so, in the absence of predators, as in the UK, numbers can soon increase.

The water vole, Arvicola amphibious, is now recognised as being endangered in the UK, with the population down by 90% in just 20 years, mainly due to predation by mink. It is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Back in 2001, the UK Water Vole Biodiversity Action Plan Steering Group recognised that “without strategic mink control the water vole would be lost to the majority of British countryside”.

The latest report and maps from the National Water Vole Database and Mapping Project published in 2020 show that Greater Lincolnshire is a stronghold for water voles, with Regional Key Areas identified across the area, especially around the fens, coast and marshes, central vale west of the Wolds, and the Isle of Axholme and northern Trent valley. However, mink are also found within all of these key areas. Action is needed now to ensure that these water vole populations survive.

Waterlife Recovery East

Waterlife Recovery East (WRE) was started in 2018 when partners from the long running East Anglian Mink and Water Vole Group joined with others from the fields of wildlife conservation, water management, game shooting and fishing. The project aims for the humane removal of mink from a large part of East Anglia, which would also provide a meaningful test of the feasibility, cost and duration of a GB-wide eradication campaign.

During 2020, WRE starting working with Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) in the south of Lincolnshire, expanding the project area into Greater Lincolnshire. GLNP joined the WRE steering group in 2021 to support this expansion and the aim of a strategic approach to mink control with across the area.

What you can do

Tell us if you have seen a mink. Submit your sighting via the WRE website: https://waterliferecoveryeast.org.uk/report-a-sighting

Let us know if you carry out trapping on your land so we can include your capture information within the WRE database to help inform future trapping effort. Submit your information via the WRE website: https://waterliferecoveryeast.org.uk/report-a-capture-or-road-kill or email margaret.haggerty@glnp.org.uk.

Tell us if you have seen a water vole via iRecord so that we can better understand where populations are surviving and hopefully expanding in the future. You can also record other species using this app, and all records will be made available to the relevant Local Environmental Records Centre and to National Schemes and Societies to help inform their research.


Thanks to Chris Manning of the Water Management Consortium and Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union for helping to draft this web page.

Join the team! 

The GLNP and WRT are looking to recruite a Self Employed Project Officer: Lincolnshire Wolds and Coastal Plain. 



Want to know how to get involved?