Water vole Kielder return boosted by mink departure
Plans to re-introduce an endangered species have been boosted by the eradication of predatory mink.
Conservationists at Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland aim to re-establish a population of water voles, not seen there since the 1970s.
The animal has been completely wiped out in large areas of the county.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust said there was real hope of "bringing this charismatic little animal back to our riverbanks where it belongs".
The animal's decline in the UK has been caused by habitat losses and predation by north American mink which escaped into the wild from fur farms.
A two-year project to ensure there are no mink in the Kielder area is nearly completed. It is believed they may have been driven away by an increase in otters.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £14,000 to the project, after a grant of £40,000 last year.
Young water voles from healthy populations outside the area will be caught, bred in captivity and eventually released.
The ultimate intention is to re-introduce them along the whole of the River Tyne and its catchments.