American mink 'safe haven' project under way
The largest ever initiative to remove breeding American mink from the north of Scotland is under way.
The Scottish Mink Initiative aims to create a 20,000 sq km safe haven for native wildlife in rural Tayside, Aberdeenshire, Moray, the Cairngorms and the Highlands.
The £920,000 project is being undertaken by a range of conservation and other organisations.
It builds on previous mink control projects in the north of Scotland.
The initiative aims to protect native wildlife, such as water voles, ground nesting birds and economically important populations of salmon and game birds.
A strategic monitoring and control zone will be established across the north, extending from the mid-Tay to the South Esk, around the east coast to the River Nairn, and across from Dornoch and Cromarty on the east to Ullapool on the west.
American mink facts
- Scientific name: Neovison vison
- First brought over to Scotland in 1938 for fur farming
- Feral mink are now known to be present in most Scottish mainland areas
- Often mistaken for otters, American mink are much smaller with fluffier tails and pointed snouts
An alert system involving local land owners, fishery trusts and volunteers will be established to prevent further spread of the species.
The three-year project is a new partnership between Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS), Scottish Wildlife Trust, the University of Aberdeen, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and more than 16 other organisations.
It is being funded by SNH, People's Trust for Endangered Species, Tubney Charitable Trust, Cairngorms National Park Authority, the Scottish government, the European Union and local action groups.
Hollie Walker, Scottish Mink Initiative co-ordinator, said the project was as much about ensuring economic security for local communities as it was about protecting Scotland's wildlife.
She said: "By taking action now to prevent mink from continuing to impact negatively on our native wildlife, we are also safeguarding local economies and livelihoods which depend on angling, shooting, or wildlife tourism.
"The success of this initiative relies on community support and involvement, and we hope that by working with homeowners, landowners, river trusts and boards and local interest groups, we can deliver real, tangible results to benefit local communities now and in the future."
This is the most concerted effort yet to remove the mink from the north of Scotland.
Previous mink control projects have been undertaken in the Cairngorms National Park, Highlands and north east Scotland.