Water voles in Scotland
Optimising invasive American mink control for conservation of water voles
American mink were brought to the UK from North America to be farmed for fur in the early 20th century. Since then many have escaped or been intentionally released and the species has become established throughout the UK.
Mink are voracious predators of a wide range of vulnerable native prey, most notably the water vole. Since the introduction of mink , our water voles have disappeared from more than 90% of their historic homes.
The Scottish Mink Initiative began in 2011 as a community based volunteer project aiming to remove breeding mink from northern Scotland in order to protect native biodiversity. Following huge initial success the project now faces the challenge of continuing to expand with reduced funding.
We are now part funding a PhD research project, carried out by Ewan McHenry at the University of Aberdeen, that aims to increase the efficiency of mink control so that future work might be carried out more effectively.
The project will use information from a range of sources gathered so far during mink control in Scotland and additional field studies to advise how mink control might be optimised. The study will attempt to identify the landscape features that benefit mink most, allowing control efforts to be more effectively targeted in the future, and allow water vole numbers to recover.