Mink control in a nutshell
Honest answers to complex questions
American mink Neovison vison is a non-native invasive species which has escaped, or been purposely released, from fur farms across Britain. Fur-farming has been outlawed in England since 2000 (2002 in Scotland), however mink have been breeding across the UK since at least the 1950’s.
American mink are semi-aquatic mustelids which have spread rapidly through watercourses in the UK, predating upon native species. Such native species, including the water vole Arvicola amphibius, have not evolved alongside American mink and therefore have no defence mechanism. A female mink can chase a water vole on land, through water, and fits perfectly into a water vole burrow, leaving the water vole with nowhere to go. A single breeding female mink taking just one water vole per day can therefore destroy a water vole colony in a short time.
Killing a wild animal for the conservation of another species is never something that is contemplated lightly. However, there has been a 97% decline in sites previously occupied by water voles [vii], and without intervention this species will soon be eradicated from the UK. Concerted, but often localised live-trapping control projects have been ongoing, the efficacy of which was significantly improved by the advent of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Mink Raft in 2002. By eliminating mink in certain areas, water voles and other aquatic fauna have had the opportunity to rebound, aided by reintroduction schemes at some sites. For water voles to persist however, there must be permanent mink control around the perimeter of the population to prevent migrating American mink moving in once more, something which requires constant funding and personnel to achieve.
The gradual return of the European otter Lutra lutra across the UK was initially thought to be having a detrimental impact on American mink numbers, however subsequent research indicated that American mink have altered their behaviour in the presence of the larger competitors, changing from being predominantly nocturnal in the 1990’s prior to the otters’ return, and predominantly diurnal in the 2000’s [viii]. This research, and s#_edn1ubsequent evidence that mink are still present in areas where otters have returned indicates that the presence of otter alone is not sufficient to protect our native faunal species.
Non-native invasive species: Species which have been introduced to Britain by people, which harm wildlife and the environment, are costly to the economy and can impact on our health and way of life [ix].