Mink vs rabbit

Early morning, leaning on the railings of the see-through Bailey bridge, I was watching the water race below me, fast and peaty from rain in the mountains.

A long brown squirrel shape bounced up the bank into the field. Too small for an otter, it must be a mink. I strolled over and saw its trail through the dew.

Moments later a desperate shriek came from a heap of scrap metal and a crow flew into the branches above. Slowly and quietly I walked around and saw the mink manoeuvring through the junk. Seeing me ahead, it retreated for a more private route back to the river.

Moments later it made a dash through the grass, a rabbit in its jaws trailing aside its back feet. I ran over to see what would happen next. At the base of a tree, just above the water's edge, was the hapless rabbit but where was the mink?

As I moved to inspect a nearby hole in the bank there was a splash as the rabbit was launched and dragged, lifeguard-style, into the river.

A fifth of the weight of an otter and not nearly as good a swimmer, the mink pointed upstream paddling frantically to reach the far side in a deep curve. Out of the main current it worked its way, low in the water with the weight of its prey, alongside the bank and beneath the overhanging branches and plants.

I thought I lost it a couple of times as it paused out of sight to rest, presumably hanging on to a branch. But then it would be off again, swimming upstream under the bridge and after about 40 metres, it emerged, passing through a small clearing in the bankside undergrowth.

A few seconds later it went back to the water's edge and dragged the wet rabbit up the bank. I can imagine a family of young mink tucking in to a hearty breakfast...

Huw Jenkins

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