Fight against invasive American mink threatening Scotland's wildlife

Mink are vicious predators and often travel hundreds of miles, making them difficult to capture, ecologists warn.

A project to reduce the number of invasive Mink in Scotland is using a sniffer dog to help them control numbers.

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) hopes a Hungarian Vizsla by the name of Bonnie can track the American mink to help protect native wildlife.

Mink are vicious predators and often travel hundreds of miles, making them difficult to capture.

Bonnie’s owner Mirella Toth has been training dogs since she was a teenager.

She said: “I started training her when she was six months old.

“Dogs are good for this job because she was able to tell what’s a mink and what’s not, so I can be more accurate with where traps are laid.”

American mink were brought to Scotland during the 1930s to make fur coats, but some escaped, and since then ecologists have been trying to control their numbers in order to protect Scotland’s native wildlife.

The animals are opportunistic predators and will often wipe out whole local native populations of water voles and ground nesting birds.

The species live along waterways and use rivers and coastline to travel hundreds of miles around Scotland.

As part of her job with SISI, Mirella can walk miles a day to track mink.

She said: “They don’t have natural predators so they can devastate native populations.

“They’re related to otters and weasels and have had a big affect on water voles which are the fastest declining mammal in the UK.”

The SISI covers a broad area of Scotland and has so far caught more than 500 mink since 2018.

In order to check and monitor the sites in such a vast area, the programme relies on hundreds of volunteers to help them keep track.

It’s hoped the mink population will continue to decrease over the coming years due to conservation projects.

Volunteer Jonathan Shannon said: “I didn’t know too much about the devastating impact mink could have. I thought they were cute.

“But once I learnt more about them it was quite frightening. We have heron, deer and water voles so if I can help protect these local species than I’m happy to volunteer.”

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