HUNDREDS of water voles have been released into a nature reserve.
Around 350 were put into Titchfield Haven over three days this week as part of a bid to reintroduce the species to the area after it was wiped out.
Last July, 450 were released into quieter, more secluded areas of the reserve on the River Meon. Up until that date, a water vole had not been seen for at least five years, meaning the species was considered ‘locally extinct’.
They were thought to have been wiped out by several factors, including loss of habitat, pollution and the predatory non-native American mink.
Following a wet winter, there were concerns about whether the animals had settled in and start to breed.
During winter flooding, it was feared the water voles’ burrows and winter food stores could have been washed away.
Rangers at the haven were delighted to spot the first water vole on Sunday, March 9 and since then, water voles have been regularly spotted across the reserve.
Adam Cave from the Environment Agency said: ‘It’s gone really well. There was always the plan to release more. It’s all going to plan.’
The voles like the ditches around the West Hide, Spurgin Hide, the Meadow Hide and in the Walkway Pond area.
The project is run by the Environment Agency, Hampshire County Council, Natural England, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Portsmouth Water.