Mink monitors wanted

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Mink monitoring raft. Picture: Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, SNH

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is appealing for volunteers to come forward to help monitor for mink which are on the move this month after breeding earlier in the year.

Juvenile American mink are now leaving their home territories and striking out on their own – meaning that this is a crucial time for detecting and controlling them before they establish in new areas and impact on our native wildlife there.

The invasive American mink was brought to Scotland for fur-farming and has been living wild in the countryside for over 50 years.  They are opportunistic and ferocious hunters taking whatever prey is available to them – often killing more than they require for food at that time. Their presence in the countryside can have a devastating effect on native Scottish wildlife, particularly ground nesting birds and iconic water vole populations.

Project Officer with the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, James Symonds, who covers the Rivers Spey, Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie, said: “We monitor for mink presence using a network of mink rafts which are looked after by volunteers. We already have a great volunteer team running rafts for us, but we have gaps in the network we’d like to fill – in particular we’d love more help on the Moray coast and in central Speyside.  So if anyone living around Burghead, Lossiemouth, Buckie and Portsoy, and also in Aberlour, Ballindalloch, Cromdale and Grantown-on-Spey areas is interested in getting involved they should get in touch for more information by emailing J.Symonds@speyfisheryboard.com or calling 07493 272898.”

Monitoring a mink raft requires no previous experience and is easy to do.  The project team provide all equipment, full training at the start, will help set the raft up and are always contactable if you need help or advice. The raft contains a clay pad hidden inside a tunnel and the tell-tale sign of mink presence is when they leave their footprints in the clay as they explore inside the tunnel.  Once a raft is set up the volunteer just needs to check it for footprints every couple of weeks. If mink are detected a live-capture trap is set and the mink caught before being humanely dispatched by the project team.

Professor Xavier Lambin, from the University of Aberdeen, explained why this is a critical time of year for mink control: “We’ve undertaken a lot of research into mink behaviour and dispersal patterns and we know that mink are very effective colonisers of new areas. During late summer and early Autumn juvenile mink can travel large distances to take up new territories – while most travel around 20km, 20% of young mink will travel up to 80km or more to new areas! This means mink can move into different river catchments and re-colonise previously cleared areas, so at this time of year we need to be really vigilant.”

Scottish Invasive Species Initiative Project Manager, Callum Sinclair, added: “Our project is working at a large scale across much of northern Scotland and that means we are monitoring for mink across many river catchments, but this is only effective if we have a comprehensive network of monitoring rafts. We still have gaps in our coverage and so are always on the look-out for volunteers to adopt mink rafts and traps in specific key areas. The success of our mink control work hangs on the support and dedication of our network of volunteers helping monitor for mink presence and support their removal.”

To find out more about the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, the mink control project or volunteering with the wider project visit www.invasivespecies.scot , follow on social media, or contact the team on sisi@nature.scot