The water vole is one of the fastest declining wild mammals in the UK and has disappeared from many parts of the country where it was once common. This has resulted in its inclusion as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and legal protection through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Water voles have been present in Glasgow for hundreds of years and they have been recorded in wetlands including ditches, marshes, ponds, burns and canals. As the name suggests water voles traditionally live in and around water.
However, water voles were recently discovered in Glasgow living away from water and since then large populations have been recorded in the east end of the city living in long grassland in parks, road verges, gardens and derelict land (brownfield). These terrestrial water voles are termed fossorial which means adapted for digging and they spend more time underground like a mole.
This adaptation to living in grasslands in such high densities in an urban environment is unique in the UK and recent research has revealed that this population is of national significance.
The council has been working with the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Natural History Society and Scottish Natural Heritage to find out more. Water voles are a protected species and all research is carried out under appropriate licences. The research has indicated that these water voles have adapted well to this new environment and they are present in numbers not observed in any other urban UK environment. Furthermore water voles are now scarce or absent over most of lowland Scotland, making this population particularly relevant to biodiversity conservation.
The council are now working with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Seven Lochs Wetland Park and RSPB Scotland to study the habitat requirements of Glasgow's unique urban terrestrial water voles and raise awareness of this urban conservation success story.
Find out more about water voles [6Mb].