Watch out for that mink...

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

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

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