The Countryside Regeneration Trust (CRT) is proud to have played an active and important role in the first step to a mink-free Britain by working closely with conservation project lead, Waterlife Recovery Trust (WRT).

This week the WRT has officially announced that its East Anglia trial proves beyond doubt that removing mink from the whole of Britain is now a realistic target. American mink, originally introduced into the countryside through escapees from banned fur farms, is an invasive animal that can devastate endemic species, including the much-loved water vole that has declined by 96% in the last 30 years.

The use of smart traps and ongoing effort from people like the 100 or more volunteers co-ordinated by CRT’s conservation officer Vince Lea and Project Officer (Cambridgeshire), Emily Coleman, has yielded results that were thought impossible. The placement of the traps on riverbanks throughout East Anglia over the last three years has resulted in the near total eradication of mink across approximately 6,000 km2 of East Anglia.

Vince and Emily set-up a smart trap.

Vince and Emily’s work across Cambridgeshire has involved setting up humane traps, responding swiftly to alerts from the smart traps, recruiting and supporting a hundred or so volunteers who act as first responders and acting as the ultimate backup for any traps that volunteers aren’t able to get to. The pair have spent a lot of energy navigating the countryside to attend traps in all weather and at all times of the day or night.

It’s only through boots on muddy and often overgrown riverbanks that projects like this can be successful and make a significant difference to the future of the British countryside. Vince and Emily’s determination and hard work is duplicated by other individuals within the project, and they are all the unsung heroes of conservation work.

Vince out on mink patrol.

Vince has also been part of the Waterlife Recovery Steering Group, a panel of experts that has worked together to design the project plan and oversee its effective implementation. The success so far can be attributed to a sound plan, a modest amount of funding and a huge amount of enthusiasm and citizen support.

The CRT’s work in the buffer, has protected the Core Area from mink incursions, but with relatively little work so far to the west of Cambridgeshire, the job is not yet done here. “It’s not always been easy, but it’s an amazing feeling to know that the success of the project in East Anglia will be the catalyst to continue the work throughout the country,” said Emily.

“The American mink has created untold damage in the countryside, and if you’d asked me whether we could realistically remove them from such a large area over just a few years at the start of this project, I would have been very reluctant to say yes,” added Vince.

“However, that is what’s happened, and we are now sharing our knowledge and experience in new collaborative mink-control projects from Northumberland down to Kent and Sussex. A mink-free Britain is genuinely achievable.”

While eradication can be declared in the Core Area of the project, mink are still likely to enter Cambridgeshire from further west, so securing the CRT’s continued involvement is critical for the coming year. People can support this work by donating to the CRT.

PUBLISHED: 17th January 2024

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