Issued by the Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum
Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum’s Mink survey project, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, The Highland Council and LEADER has come to the half way point. Scores of volunteers including members of various conservation organisations, crofters, grazing clerks and members of fishing organisations have helped to gather data and provide a picture of the activities of mink throughout the area during the period of dispersal of young mink from their breeding sites – August to November.
Mink are rarely seen, although in some areas they are more frequent visitors than we might expect. They were introduced into Britain as a farmed animal for their fur, but escaped, or were released into the wild, where they compete with otters and others of the weasel family. Although smaller than otters they often occupy similar territories. Mink feed on fish, ground nesting birds, eggs, and small mammals, they are often the cause of poultry loss from hen houses and runs.
Mink are bold aggressive hunters. Apart from the kitting (birth of the young) and mating periods they are solitary territorial animals, patrolling long narrow territories along coasts, loch-sides and watercourses. Mating takes place in February and March with four to seven kits being born in April and May. During late summer and autumn the young mink disperse from their breeding dens and have been known to travel up to 100km to find territories and prey. Once a sizable population has become established very few places are immune from invasion.
So far the Skye and Lochalsh Mink Project has gathered information on sightings, trappings, road fatalities and footprints (pad-marks) of mink in tunnels set with clay pads and checked by volunteers all over the area. This has provided a picture of mink as having colonised most of the coastline of Skye and Lochalsh, with some hot spots such as Kyle, Kylerhea, Loch Bracadale and North Trotternish as well as the islands in the Sound of Raasay.
The second phase of the monitoring programme will focus on the mating period when male mink travel widely in search of a mate. The tunnels with the clay pads will be re-set and checked from February to April and by May of next year (2011) Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum will be able to provide a more complete picture of mink distribution through out the area. This will enable us to develop a policy to help protect our native wildlife and biodiversity, so important for maintaining the tourism and economic development of the area.
Mammal Society member Roger Cottis, welcomed the results, adding “This is an important element in the continuing fight to help indigenous Scottish wildlife under threat from an animal which should not be in our environment. The Skye & Lochalsh Environment Forum’s efforts to complement similar schemes across the country will give a clearer picture of the task confronting the conservation movement, game and livestock interests”.
If you have any information on Mink in your area please contact Rob Forrest, Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum Mink project Coordinator, tel. 01478 612766.