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Mink: The cute and cuddly killer.

Posted: Monday 17th July 2017 by RiverSearch

American mink (Neovision vision) are a member of the Mustelid family (the weasel, badger and otter family). Mink are often mistaken for otters, but are in fact much smaller. Only a juvenile otter would be comparable to the size of a mink. Mink fur is dark brown and they have a distinctive white chin and lower jaw.

The mink we have in Britain are not native here. They are American mink (Neovison vison), which originated from mink brought here for fur-farming.

In continental Europe, there is also a European mink (Mustela lutreola), a somewhat different species and now endangered. The European mink has apparently never existed in the British Isles.

A widespread modern misconception is that the UK’s wild population of American mink originated from mass releases of mink from fur farms by animal rights activists in the 1990s. In fact, the wild population was established decades earlier from multiple escapes (and perhaps deliberate releases) all over the country.

Mink were first confirmed to be breeding in the wild in 1956. By the middle of the 20th century mink had become widespread. They are opportunistic predators and will take a wide variety of prey. Young water birds are particularly vulnerable and often whole broods are wiped out when a mink is present in the area.
Also among their prey is the native and protected Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris). Since the introduction of mink, water voles have rapidly declined. Recent surveys have found that water vole sites have diminished by as much as 94%. During 2016, Surrey Wildlife Trust volunteers carried out over 100 watervole surveys across the county, sadly with no positive records being found.


“Without strategic mink control being carried out in combination with habitat enhancement, we will lose the water vole from the vast majority of the British countryside in our lifetimes.
Currently, the best method is to live capture the mink in a cage and then shoot at point blank range at a specific point on the back of the head. A licensed and experienced trapper should only ever do this.

Mink rafts take advantage of the inquisitive nature of mink and are used to detect the presence of mink along the river. A raft is floated on the water (tethered to a bank) and has a hinged tunnel on top of it. Under this tunnel is a basket filled with florists oasis with a layer of clay on top of it. Mink will climb aboard the raft and walk through the tunnel out of curiosity, at the same time leaving footprints on the clay pad. Volunteers who monitor the rafts, will then be able to detect a mink has recently passed through and can then alert the trapper. The trapper places a cage in the tunnel and hopefully catches the mink who will often revisit the raft several times.

Surrey Wildlife Trust is not currently involved in any mink control projects.

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