A WATER vole has given birth to a second litter of youngsters this summer to the joy of staff at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

Born blind the seven voles were born on Friday, August 19, their mother gave birth to a smaller litter of three youngsters earlier this summer.

Water vole numbers have declined in the wild in the UK over the years meaning this once common sight on our waterways is now scarce in many areas.

These voles are part of the captive collection at Slimbridge’s Back from the Brink attraction which features species such as otters and Harvest mice which are under threat.

Water voles have been in decline since the 1970s across England due to habitat loss and predation by mink.

The Environment Agency has recently released 60 captive voles into a river catchment Cornwall to ensure there is a population in each county once again.

However, despite a worrying picture nationally, numbers of wild water voles at Slimbridge are good with a recent survey showing high density along the 16km of wetland ditch studied.

John Crooks, Captive Animal Keeper at Slimbridge, said: “Everyone is familiar with the character Ratty from Wind in The Willows who is a water vole but nowadays few children have sadly seen one in real life.

“Luckily at Slimbridge with a bit of patience they can usually be spotted either at Back from the Brink or just out and about in our wetlands in places like the Canoe Safari trail.

“We are delighted that the Water Voles have had such a successful summer and these youngsters look adorable. Try to spot them on your next visit.”

The Canoe safari is open every day in September, weather permitting.