For two years we have been working with the Waterlife Recovery Trust to help eradicate invasive American mink from East Anglia, to stop them predating on native species including water voles, kingfishers and moorhens. Now, as the project expands into other parts of the country, we are launching efforts on two of our farms in Dorset.

We have installed two smart traps, one on Bere Marsh Farm and another at Stoke Wake. We are very thankful for the help of local volunteers, who are helping us to manage the devices and responding to the alerts sent by them.

On Bere Marsh Farm, American mink have often been spotted but there has been no evidence of water voles since our wildlife monitoring began, after buying the farm in 2020.

Dr Vince Lea, Conservation Officer, said: "Recent analysis of barn owl pellets collected on the farm has shown the owls are eating a wide range of prey, but no water voles.

"The Stour is an important river and Bere Marsh Farm lies at about the halfway point, so it is a great place to start intercepting mink that make their way up and down the waterway. Bere Marsh Farm is part of the Mid Stour Farmer Cluster, so through this network of farmers and landowners we hope to demonstrate the method and encourage others along the river to join forces and tackle this invasive species. It will form a useful nucleus of experience and expertise when the Waterlife Recovery Trust (WRT) project expands into South West England, as the aim is eventually to eradicate mink from the whole of Britain.

"When the mink pressure is reduced we will find out if any water voles have survived in the area, as they will get a chance to breed and increase. If not, it might be necessary to reintroduce them, but that is a decision to be made at a later date. For now, if we can reduce mink locally it will at least give other native wildlife such as moorhens and kingfishers a chance to thrive."

For more information about the wider project visit:

Water voles return as mink numbers significantly reduced (East Anglia, report from October 2022)

Ground-breaking project expands (Published in The Lark magazine, May 2023)

TOP: The River Stour on Bere Marsh Farm © Laura Hollis

RIGHT: Water vole © Pam Parsons

Published: 19th July 2023