The non-native American mink (Mustela vison) has become widely established throughout the UK. Their population has been ever increasing since their escape from fur farms back in the 1950’s.
Mink cage trapping | Mink control
Mink are small carnivores of the mustelid family. They are predators, killing a wide variety of principally water-side animals – anything from small frogs and fish to water voles and moorhens. Mink are extensively trapped by gamekeepers and riparian-owners, since there is no doubt that these animals do serious damage to penned gamebirds, waterfowl and fish. Mass kills are frequent.
Mink are opportunistic feeders and carnivores. They have been known to take a wide variety of prey including birds (ducks, cygnets, moorhen etc,) water voles, rabbits, and a variety of small mammals. Mink are also curious and will instinctively investigate unusual holes, tunnels or objects.
Unlike some of our native carnivores, and in spite of their recent appearance, mink are now relatively common. There are estimated to be 110,000 in Britain.
Is it a mink or an otter?
Before carrying out mink control, make absolutely sure that you have not mistaken otters for mink.
Otters are a protected native species. Otters are up to twice as big as mink, tend to be nocturnal, are less likely to be seen in family groups, and have a distinctive chocolatey brown colouring with a clearly visible creamy colour chin/chest patch. [Mink are generally a blacker brown and more obviously furry]. If you are unsure if it is an otter then please ask for professional assistance.
Male mink begin to look for females between January and March. By February/March, females have often been mated and will be carrying up to ten young. By late spring, females are likely to have dependent young established in a chosen den. If the mother dies then the young will starve. This is a welfare issue which should be considered when controlling mink. During summer, mink are often found in family groups which are frequently active during the day. Mink are territorial and once young have matured, they will generally be forced out of the natal den to find their own territory. This usually occurs between July and November (peak time August-September). Mink mark their territories with distinctive scats (in a similar way to otters).
MINK CONTROL OPTIONS
- Trapping– Trapping is by far the most suitable method for controlling and removing mink. Of the two trapping option i.e. spring trap (killing) or live capture (cage) we always recommend the latter. This recommendation is for the following reason- non-target species can be released unharmed.
Purpose built, heavy duty traps should be used. All traps should be fitted with otter guards.
We suggest that only professional’s undertake the trapping and dispatch of mink- for this reason we will not tell you here how to do so but give some general pointers.
Where to trap:
- Set traps where mink are most likely to encounter them – i.e. inlets/outlets for ponds and lakes; where drains, hedges or fence lines meet watercourses; on or near weirs, old willow pollards, fallen logs or bridges; on islands,
- Avoid placing traps in the open
- Avoid placing traps where they can be knocked or interfered with by persons, cattle, sheep, badgers etc..
When to trap:
- January – March (before breeding)
- Late August – early November (dispersing animals).
- Short periods of trapping (upto 10 days at a time) may be as effective as continual trapping.
- Do not trap in extreme weather as this can cause undue distress and mortality
Setting the trap
- Mink are curious and investigative. Create a dark and interesting hole…..
- Ensure trap is above potential rises in water level.
- Make sure the trap is set on even ground and so that movement of any trapped animal cannot knock it into water or off ledges.
- Traps can also be partially dug into the ground for extra stability
- Securely peg down the trap. An unstable trap will deter mink from entering.
- Cover traps in dry grass/hay – any creature caught can pull this through the mesh to make a bed.
- Alternatively wedge the trap between logs, or heap it over with sticks, driftwood, stones or similar (ensuring these do not interfere with the operation of the trap).
- The provision of bait (e.g. fish-flavoured cat food, fish) can increase the attraction for mink, but mink prefer their prey alive or fresh. Baiting of well-located traps is often not necessary, as mink are intensely curious, and bait may even deter animals from entering.
- Traps must, legally, be checked a minimum of once a day. Ideally twice a day.
- Once a mink has been caught, it is illegal to release it back into the wild, or keep it captive without a licence.
- Non-target species should be released.
Trapping Using Mink rafts
A mink raft is a floating raft which uses a wetted clay pad to monitor the presence of mink (and other animal) footprints.
Once mink have investigated the raft and have left scat or footprints, a trap can be placed under the wooden housing. Mink will generally be trapped within a few days. Mink rafts can then be moved to other locations to monitor whether mink are present or not.
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