The American mink (Mustela vison) is a well-known invasive non-native species. It spread throughout the country following escapes from fur farms in the latter half of the 20thcentury. Being an opportunistic predator, often killing more than they require for food, mink have had a devastating effect on our native wildlife. In particular ground nesting birds and water vole populations are vulnerable to predation by this avid hunter.
The mink is a semi-aquatic mammal with rich, usually dark brown fur, which belongs to the “Mustelid” family. It occupies both freshwater and saltwater habitats and follow waterways, lake edges and coasts. Read more about mink.
The aim of the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is to control mink across the project area, this is done by using mink monitoring rafts to establish if mink are present in an area then once detected mink are trapped and humanely dispatched.
The mink monitoring raft was designed by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and is used to detect the presence of mink. The raft floats on the edge of river or burn, and mink, being inquisitive creatures, will investigate and go through the wooden tunnel. Inside the tunnel is a clay pad, on which the mink (or any other creature) will leave its paw prints. When the tell-tale prints of a mink are found we know they are present in that area. At this stage a live capture trap is installed in the tunnel to catch the mink which if then humanely dispatched.
Our project relies on the support of volunteers to adopt a mink raft, and help us monitor for the presence of mink across a wide area. No experience is necessary, you just need to visit the raft every 1-2 weeks and check for the tell-tale sign of mink footprints in the clay. The raft is provided by us, and we’ll help you install it and answer all your questions.
Download further information about mink rafts
If mink are found in an area, the clay pad on the raft is changed for a live capture trap. These traps must be checked daily at this stage to see if anything has been caught - volunteers or project staff can do this. Anyone monitoring a mink trap is paired with a local dispatcher who has been trained to humanely dispatch any mink caught. We only use live capture traps so any non-target species, like water voles or squirrels, can be released unharmed.
We expect to deploy nearly 500 mink rafts during the project. As well as this we will also use mink tunnels on land, wildlife cameras and will be trialling “mink police” trap detection units, as part of our project.
Here's one of our mink raft volunteers showing you her mink raft and what is involved in checking it.
The American mink is in the same family as otters, pine marten and stoats. It has dark brown fur often with a white patch on the chin.
Find out more about identifying mink and it's prints, it's impacts and previous mink control projects.
Read more about the American mink
Our Mink Strategy
Our SISI mink strategy is based on analysis of information from a number of previous projects which were thoroughly and scientifically evaluated. Our project will use an approach where the number and locations of mink rafts are adapted according to changes in mink populations levels and the identification of female breeding locations.
The three stages of this approach are;
- Stage 1: Raft Saturation
- Position mink rafts at approx. 2km intervals across suitable waterways or coastline
- Quickly reduce the resident mink population
- Collect data required to identify the priority locations
- Stage 2: Targeted reduction of mink raft network
Achieve coverage and monitoring of all female breeding locations (as identified in stage 1).
- Stage 3: Long term, low level monitoring of key locations
Prioritise coverage to the most prolific locations for female captures,
At each stage the number of mink rafts in use will decrease and the volunteer and staff input will decrease.
Across the SISI project area there are 43 river catchments in the mink control strategy, many have already been involved in mink control work so not are all starting at stage 1. At the outset of the project seven catchments are at stage 1, 25 at stage 2 and 11 catchments at stage 3.
By the end of the project, we aim to have all target river catchments at Stage 3, monitored and maintained by a core of high quality volunteers and coordinated with minimal effort and cost by local fishery trust staff.