03 February 2014

American mink (Neovison vison) is an invasive non-native species which has a huge impact on our native wildlife.  It was introduced to Scotland in 1938 for fur farming purposes.  The population found in the UK today are descendants of American mink who either escaped from fur farms or were deliberately released.
The mink can adapt their feeding behaviour according to the prey available and when a food source is exhausted, they simply switch to another.  They feed on water voles, ground nesting birds (adult birds, chicks and eggs), rabbits, fish, domestic foul such as hens and ducks and economically important birds such as pheasants and partridges. 
They are also prolific breeders and can have up to 10 kits a year although the average is 4-6.  Lastly, but possibly most importantly, they have no natural predators in the UK – except man.  

In a bid to protect our native wildlife and economically important species, the Scottish Mink Initiative (SMI) was launched in May 2013.  SMI is the UK’s largest initiative to date to remove breeding American mink from north Scotland and covers 20,000 km², from north Tayside across Aberdeenshire, Moray, the Cairngorms and the Highlands. 
The Initiative signals a £920,000 investment in native wildlife conservation, thanks to support from SNH through the Species Action Framework, Tubney Charitable Trust, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Peoples Trust for Endangered Species and the Scottish Government and the European Community Cairngorms, Highland, Moray, Rural Aberdeenshire and Rural Tayside Local Action Groups LEADER 2009-2015 Programme

SMI is a volunteer based project which uses modified mink rafts designed by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) to monitor for and trap American mink.  Mink rafts are floated on rivers, lochs and burns and are monitored by volunteers who regularly check the clay pad for footprints. 
Once prints have been positively identified, a live capture trap can be set within the tunnel.  Only those who have been trained are involved with dispatch. 
Since work began in April 2013, the project has progressed well with 40 new volunteers recruited, 89 new rafts/tunnels in situ and 63 American mink controlled across North Tayside. 
Ann-Marie MacMaster, Mink Control Officer for North Tayside is really pleased with volunteer enthusiasm and commitment but would like to stress that new volunteers are always welcome!
Appealing to readers, Ann-Marie said: “ If you live or work within the SMI area and would like to get involved with the Initiative, or submit your American mink records, please go to our website for staff contact details: www.scottishmink.org.uk

Riparian Mammals Seminar
Ann-Marie will be giving a presentation as part of the ‘Riparian Mammals Seminar’ at the Locus Centre at 7.30pm on Tuesday 28 February. Victor Clements (Scottish Native Woods) will present the beaver and Rob Coope (Forestry Commission Scotland) the otter.
Open to all at no cost, bookings are, however, essential. Contact Ann-Marie on 07825 186043 or CLOAKING

The trapped and caged mink above is pictured by Ann-Marie MacMaster


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