Watch out for that mink...
THIS week a colleague of mine had a close encounter with an animal with whom you would not want to have a close encounter.
She spotted a long, dark-furred mammal underneath a bench on a nature reserve and thought for a moment that it was an otter.
She actually got quite close to the creature and offered it a ‘coochie coo’, it came closer for a better look and then dived into a nearby lake.
Was it an otter? No this was a mink. Its dark fur was the first clue but also its apparent fearlessness when confronted with a human confirmed its identity. While mink attacks on humans are few and far between, fishermen will tell you stories of these mammals being willing to get very close if there is food to be fought over. A hungry mink may be dangerous to an unsuspecting fisherman or woman.
Therefore my colleague was probably quite lucky that her friendly mink did not make a grab for her finger.
Mink are incredibly beautiful animals but they are not native to the United Kingdom and have helped to decimate our water voles and other small mammals. They hunt along riverbanks and lakes and are exceptional swimmers.
During the fashion for fur coats in the 50s and 60s – how far we have come since then? – they were brought over here to supply fur farms.
Many people blame animal rights protesters for freeing these animals and not realising the consequences. However you do hear of more sinister and selfish releases by the fur farmers themselves, once they realised that the fashion for fur was proving pretty unpopular.
Whoever is to blame, the mink escaped and now number more than 100,000 in the UK. We do have a problem with them where our reserves are close to riverbanks. These days otters are beginning to outperform the mink, which is good.
Mink can be distinguished from otters by their smaller size, darker, almost black fur and small white chin and throat.
Mink sightings should be reported to local authorities as they can be a real pest on water bodies. If you see one, though, keep your distance... just in case.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 27,000 members.
To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www. lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.
Mink are beautiful creatures but sometimes they are just in the wrong place