American mink facts
THE AMERICAN MINK (Neovison vison, formerly Mustela vison)
The American mink Neovison vison is a semi-aquatic carnivore that first became established in the wild in Britain in the 1950s. Following numerous escapes and releases from fur farms, it has now spread throughout most of the country. Fur farmers brought American mink to the Western Isles in the 50s and 60s with feral individuals first recorded in Lewis in 1969. They have since spread southwards, reaching South Uist by 2001. This invasive non-native species is a proficient hunter and its varied diet consists largely of birds, small mammals, fish and crabs. Some birds are particularly vulnerable to mink predation as they nest on the ground in large colonies. After a spring mating females give birth to between three and seven kits in June. The surviving kits are independent and start dispersing from mid August. American mink can live for up to five years but 50% of youngsters die in their first year. Mink are almost certainly having a serious adverse effect on the native biodiversity of the Western Isles and pose a particular threat to the many internationally important populations of ground nesting birds. In their continuous search for food they will readily take eggs, chicks and adult birds. They also impact on economic activities such as fin-fish farming, river fisheries, game shooting, poultry farming and indirectly, tourism, industries that contribute almost £50 M p.a. (22%) to the isles economy.
SPECIES UNDER THREAT
The recent spread of mink into North Uist and Benbecula threatens the continued existence of many bird populations, particularly in the European Special Protection Areas at: Aird and Borve on Benbecula, Mointeach Scabadhaigh on North Uist, North Uist Machair and Islands, South Uist Machair and Lochs, and Kilpheder to Smerclate on South Uist. The principal species considered to be at serious risk are, arctic tern, common tern, little tern, black throated diver, red throated diver, corncrake, dunlin, ringed plover.