We’ve had a strangely active year for mink on the river below the house. The traps have been working busily since the start of January, and one in particular has caught eleven mink in three months. That’s a fair number of mink by anyone’s standards, and there are five really notable things which are worth recording from this trap –
- The months between New Year and Easter seem to be the most active for mink. From what I can gather, males will travel long distances to find females, and nine of the eleven mink I’ve had in this trap have been males. I hope this means I’ve created a black hole into which mink from a wide area have been vanishing. I used to have a large number of traps all along the river, but I’m starting to think I can do more good with just one or two well placed traps. It takes time to walk around and check a large number traps all day, so if mink are on the move, why not let them do the walking and come to me?
- I can be pretty sure I’ll catch a mink after heavy rain when the river is up. I think that mink probably prefer to clamber up and down the river bed, but when the water level rises, they’re forced to move along burnside bankings and tow-paths. There have been two or three times when I’ve lain in bed at night, heard rain lashing against the window and correctly guessed that I would have a mink in the morning.
- The mink I’m catching are steadily getting smaller and smaller. When I started, I caught a series of monstrous mink, one of which was twenty seven inches from nose to tail. These beasts made for an imposing sight, and some of them were as hefty as a housecat. Now I’m catching mink which are only around twenty inches long or less, and I begin to wonder if I’ve killed off the dominant breeding males in this area. Without the big hitters, younger mink are coming in to look for territories and getting caught themselves. This lends weight to the “black hole” idea, and I hope it means that I’m really making some good progress.
- Of these eleven mink, five have been silver and the rest were the classic “black with a white chin”. At first I thought that silver mink were a minority, but as I continue to catch more and more animals, I find the balance is beginning to even out.
- I caught a pregnant female last week. Judging by her progress, she would probably have been dropping her young in a month. There’s very little information on feral mink populations in the UK and I can’t tell if this is to be expected, but birthing in April certainly makes sense.
Mallard are down on their nests and the riversides are steadily refilling with grey wagtails, dippers and kingfishers. I can’t afford to take my foot off this progress, and it’s strangely comforting to find this work comes so easily. These mink have been bizarrely straightforward to catch, and I reckon a child could have gathered up as many (or more) as I’ve had in the last three months. I’m used to working hard on trapping, and most of my time is spent winkling out canny foxes and crows. It’s always slightly stunning to find mink blundering into traps like drunkards, but I’m certainly not complaining.