ENDANGERED water voles are flourishing at a St Helens woodland after decades of decline.
The mammals, whose numbers have been affected by the introduction of American mink, have made a spectacular comeback at Sutton Manor, thanks to careful conservation work by the Forestry Commission.
Ranger Adam Evans said: “Ten years ago there were no voles at Sutton Manor. But over the last five years they have spread all over this site.
“We have undertaken habitat management work on the reed beds to help them make their homes. Wherever there is water on this site we have found them.”
He added: “It is positive news that water voles are returning. Their fortunes seem to be changing and if we can identify suitable habitats and open up corridors for water voles to populate them, they could flourish again.
“Their return brings more diversity and interest for visitors to these wonderful woodlands.”
Forestry Commission ecologist Adrienne Bennett is also carrying out surveys at other sites across the region to see if water voles are living there.
It is difficult to determine exact numbers, but once water voles are confirmed there are steps they can take to help them thrive, such as improving the banks of ponds or streams for burrowing and monitoring for mink in the area.
She said: “They are quite resilient creatures but there have been so many factors stacked against them that have had a dramatic impact.
“Surveys can be as simple as walking the waterways to spot them, or hiding small ‘rafts’ in the reeds that attract water voles to deposit their droppings.”