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Protect Moray from American invaders

By Alistair Whitfield

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HELP is needed to prevent Moray from being invaded by American Mink.

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is warning that the ferocious hunters poise a serious threat to Moray's wildlife.

A mink spotted on the River Lossie.
A mink spotted on the River Lossie.

The species is now on the move after breeding earlier in the year.

Professor Xavier Lambin, from the University of Aberdeen, explained this means that now is a critical time of the year for mink control.

He said: “We’ve undertaken a lot of research and we know that mink are very effective colonisers of new areas.

"During late summer and early Autumn juvenile mink can travel large distances to take up new territories.

"While most travel around 12 miles, 20 per cent of young mink will travel up to 50 miles or more.

"This means mink can move into different river catchments and re-colonise previously cleared areas, so at this time of year we need to be really vigilant."

Scotland's water voles are preyed on by American Mink
Scotland's water voles are preyed on by American Mink

The American mink was brought to Scotland for fur-farming and has been living wild in the countryside for over 50 years.

The creatures take whatever prey is available to them – often killing more than they require for food.

Their presence can therefore have a devastating effect on native wildlife, particularly ground nesting birds and water voles.

James Symonds, who covers the Rivers Spey, Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie for the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, is appealing for local volunteers to help him.

He said: "We already have a great volunteer team, but we have gaps in the network we’d like to fill – in particular we’d love more help on the Moray coast and in central Speyside.

"We'd like to hear from anyone living around Burghead, Lossiemouth, Buckie, Portsoy, Aberlour, Ballindalloch, Cromdale and Grantown-on-Spey."

Mink rafts are used to monitor the presence of the creatures.
Mink rafts are used to monitor the presence of the creatures.

The initiative is looking for volunteers to monitor its 'mink rafts'.

Each of these rafts contains a clay pad hidden inside.

Once set up, the volunteer just needs to check the raft for footprints every couple of weeks.

This, says James, requires no previous experience and is easy to do.

If footsteps are detected the project team will then take charge and set up a live-capture trap.

Once the mink is caught it will be humanely dispatched.

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative's project manager, Callum Sinclair, said: "Our project is working at a large scale across much of northern Scotland.

"That means we are monitoring for mink across many river catchments, but this is only effective if we have a comprehensive network of monitoring rafts.

"We still have gaps in our coverage and so are always on the lookout for volunteers to adopt mink rafts in specific key areas.

"The success of our mink control work hangs on the support and dedication of our network of volunteers helping monitor for mink presence and support their removal."

Email J.Symonds@speyfisheryboard.com or call 07493 272898.

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