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UNDER THREAT - UK mink population
Posted 1 September 2003
There are plans to wipe out the UK's entire mink population, promoted by those who claim that mink are responsible for the reduction of water vole on Britain's rivers.
In reality, it is humans who are largely to blame for the decline of these creatures. Pollution of the country's waterways and destruction of riverbanks are the main cause of dwindling numbers. Water voles need clean water and a variety of habitat - ditches, dykes, rivers and streams, plus grassland. Their decline indicates that serious damage has been done to their environment, notably the reinforcement of riverbanks with concrete and metal.
Mink are not native to Britain. They were introduced from America by the fur trade. Those who were turned loose by fur farmers whose businesses closed down soon adapted to the wild and became firmly established on UK waterways. They also rapidly became a convenient scapegoat for the decline in native British mammals. First they were held responsible for the dramatic decline of the otter, though evidence now indicates that it was pesticides and persecution by hunters that put the otter under so much pressure. Now that hunting is banned and where rivers are cleaner, otter numbers are recovering. And where otters do well, mink numbers decline just as spectacularly.
Although there are around ten trial mink culls taking place around the country, ministers have yet to sanction mass slaughter. If total elimination was ever to be sanctioned, the price is predicted to be about £10 million over a 50 year period. Some experts claim that to eradicate the species completely would require far more funds and could take up to 100 years to complete.
Find out more about 'scapegoating the aliens' in our wildlife section.