You can’t deny mink look cute, almost puppy-like. Unsurprisingly, given the original purpose for their breeding, they resemble a ferret or polecat in a rich brown fur coat. But look at their teeth and claws and you see an aggressive non-native predator that kills our birds, fish and most worryingly our endangered water voles. Released from captivity by animal rights protestors, mink have been breeding wild in the UK since the 1950s and are a huge menace to our native species. A neighbour saw a mink kill a moorhen chick right from her riverbank of her cottage. Mink have also been known to kill domestic animals including chickens and kittens.
Mink live near water and they are active on local rivers and canals. Mink have a particularly damaging impact on our few remaining water voles as they predate heavily in the early spring when water voles are particularly vulnerable. All adult water voles that are tough enough to survive the winter form the breeding population. This means that every vole killed at this time is one fewer to replenish the population and this accelerates the decline of our water vole numbers.
A female mink with growing kits will predate heavily on any water vole colonies up and downstream of her den. Not only will mink follow water voles underwater, but females and juveniles are small enough to enter water vole burrows. An adult mink can kill several water vole every day, especially when the female mink are feeding their young. Water voles have no means of escape from mink and a colony can be wiped out in a matter of weeks.
Like many wildlife trusts across the country our local Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust(BBOWT) has a policy of controlling mink in order to protect our threatened native water voles. BBOWT encourages and supports landowners in placing mink rafts on waterways in water vole key areas and we have set up a trap on the River Lambourn outside our house in East Garston.
The trap is actually a tunnel that floats on the water with a slab of wet clay at the bottom. Wild birds and animals will naturally explore the tunnel so you inspect the clay daily for footprints.
As soon as you see mink footprints you insert the live trap into the tunnel which is designed to only catch animals the size of mink. The mink are trapped live and then need to be humanely dispatched.
How You Can Help
If you have sighted mink near you and/or you can help set up a mink trap near your house, please contact Gavin Bennett on firstname.lastname@example.org
Gavin is always looking for new locations for rafts on any water course near our water vole populations. He is especially interested to find new locations within the River Ock catchment – anywhere between Shrivenham and Abingdon as this area has quite sparse coverage.
Still from BBC Four documentary: mink killing a kingfisher
John Dellow: mink in trap