AN elusive mammal which has been in decline in 94 per cent of its natural habitats has taken up residence in a nature reserve in the region – much to the delight of volunteers.

Numbers of water voles are on the rise at Foxglove Covert Nature Reserve at Catterick Garrison, and can regularly be seen feeding from hand-made platforms throughout the reserve thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers.

Long-term volunteer Glennis Walton said: "I have only seen a water vole clearly about three times, although I have heard plenty of plops into the water, and seen lots of evidence of them.

"Since the feeding platforms have been put up I've had a fantastic opportunity to watch and photograph these fascinating little mammals."

Water voles were first introduced to Foxglove Covert in 2007 as part of a reintroduction programme – and the reserve has happily housed these rare mammals ever since.

Reserve manager Jennifer Care was inspired by the water vole feeding platforms she saw at another nature reserve and has been thrilled with the success they have had at Foxglove.

She said: “It’s amazing how quickly the water voles have taken to the new feeding platforms.

“They make the water voles much easier to see – a recent school group even managed to catch a glimpse of one.”

According to the Mammal Society, water voles have disappeared from 94 per cent of their former sites. Although habitat loss and degradation is a problem for these mammals, their biggest threat has been predation by the American mink, which were brought into Britain in the 1920s for fur farms.

Foxglove Covert is open to the public from 9am until 5pm on weekdays and 10am until 4pm on weekends and bank holidays. Entrance is free but groups must book in advance, and adults must bring photographic ID as entry to the reserve is through the barracks.