Monday, 18 February 2013

An American (mink) in Rother

 Article: Heather Martin 18/02/2013

At the end of last week I went to check the level of the water in our seasonal pond in the wood. It has been exceptionally high recently. As I approached the rim, I heard a splash and saw surface ripples spreading out from behind the submerged base of a large alder tree. I fully expected to see a Mallard appear that occasionally visits, so was really surprised when a dark brown furry mammal about the size of a small domestic cat swam into view!

The noise I made rummaging for my camera alerted the animal to my presence - it left the water and bounded up the bank towards the deer fence where it paused to let Rodney stride past oblivious, then ducked underneath and disappeared amongst the trees.

American mink at the water's edge
 An interesting encounter because I have never seen an American Mink (Neovison vison) in the wild before but an unwelcome visitor unless its voracious appetite for all other suitably sized wildlife includes another equally unwelcome invasive species - the Grey Squirrel!

An invasive and an evasive species
The first mink were brought to Britain in 1929 to be bred in fur farms and all wild mink are descendants of escapees from these. They rapidly spread across the country and have been a major factor in the decimation of our native Water Vole (Arvicola amphibious) population.
Male mink can grow up to 47 cm long plus a tail length of about 15 cm. Their fluffy coats are a very dark brown in colour and they are agile climbers as well as good swimmers. Although mink usually live close to any kind of waterway, they are also capable of living anywhere enough prey is available as their diet not only includes the creatures you would expect to find in an aquatic habitat but also rabbits, rodents,  small birds and their eggs, and invertebrates.

More on Water Voles from the Wildlife Trusts

More on Americian Mink from the Wildlife Trusts

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