This morning I came across an unwanted guest on my local nature reserve.
The American Mink as its name suggests isn't a native UK mammal but is here as a result of the fur farming industry and a population originally made up of escapees and intentional releases from these farms. This population seems to have been well established before the mass releases by animal activists during the 1990's but this wouldn't have helped.
Mink farms had been established in the 1920's with up to 400 known to be breeding animals for the trade. The mink were first confirmed to be breeding in the wild back in 1956 and by 1967 were present in around half the counties of England and Wales. The industry had been controlled by Government action since the 70's and it was the few remaining farms in the 90's which came under attack by animal activist in well publicised raids.
The Mink is a small, lithe mammal, with brown-black fur, a narrow snout, a small, white chin and a white throat. They are smaller than otters and with darker fur and a smaller face. They are voracious predators feeding on anything it is big enough to catch, including ground-nesting birds water voles, which in some areas have been wiped out.
This mink was busy catching small fish in a pond which was part of the old canal. It would dive under the water it's progress followed by the emerging bubbles before it would surface with its catch and run up one of the fallen branches to eat its snack. they are excellent swimmers aided by their semi-webbed feet. At the end of the day it's not their fault they are here, a combination of a poorly secured business, mismanagement and some dubious animal activism all contributed to it establishing a place in the wild. All this mink was doing today was going about its daily life.