American Mink spell the end of water voles. A member of the Mustelid family, mink first came over to Britain in 1929, to be farmed for their fur and were reported breeding wild for the first time in 1956. As the Mink has no natural predator they thrive on the waterways throughout the UK. You can tell when a river has a mink problem when wildlife is scarce; they kill anything they can. The female is small enough to fit down water vole burrows, taking one each day from their snug winter nests. This is why I trap mink on Haddon Estate, to protect our native wildlife against invasive non natives. It has been recognised by all the wildlife trusts that mink are a real problem, noting that it is actually illegal to release a trapped mink.
Thursday 12th November 2009
Whilst walking my dogs along the river yesterday, I got the whiff of a distinctive, musty smell which could only mean Mink. The dogs were going barmy and could obviously trace the spot where it had come out of the river onto dry land.
Waders on then and cross the river to my nearest mink raft, some 20 metres upstream from the strong smell. I could now clearly see that a mink had left it’s calling card; a set of it’s prints in the clay. They were fresh, and of a good size, so I was probably going to be searching for a male. The mink raft gives them what they like; an island with a tunnel on it and it attracts them like a magnet.
When we get conformation of a mink present on a stretch of river, my raft turn from monitoring to ‘live’ as I set cage traps on every one. Ten traps were set over a distance of about 1 ½ miles, ensuring that if the mink misses one, it could be picked up in another. Cage traps are a trap that catches the animal live meaning that if I were to catch a water vole, or any other animal, it would be released unharmed. It works by the animal standing on a plate, which sets a spring to shut the door. I will be required by law to check the live traps at least once every twenty four hours but I get round twice a day, once before breakfast and at last light.
Generally, when trapping mink, I can expect to catch them between 2 days to 2weeks but sometimes they evade me completely.
Friday 13th November 2009 -Lucky for Some
After a filthy night of very heavy rain, I had a feeling of confidence. Up early to walk the dogs and check the traps. Walking upstream, I had nothing in my first six traps. Then the seventh, the site that any trapper wants to see, the glistening silver door confronting them.
Could I have caught one in only12 hours? With my fresh scent on the trap, I’d never deemed it possible. Waders on, and splashing out from the margin I could see a head staring back at me. I’d caught one, great. After humanely dispatching the mink with the .22 rimfire further investigation revealed that it was an adult male, probably looking for a place to over-winter and bring up a family in the spring.
Best Wishes, Jan