At the Countryside Regeneration Trust (CRT) we’re particularly proud of the role we’ve played as part of the Waterlife Recovery East (WRE) project that aims to remove American mink from East Anglia.  

In particular, our head of wildlife monitoring Dr Vince Lea, and Emily Coleman, Project Officer – Cambridgeshire, have worked incredibly hard, alongside other partners, to make a success of this hugely important environmental effort.  

The American mink is an invasive species that simply shouldn’t be in the ecosystem. Their presence is bad news for all manner of native wildlife, but especially water voles, wetland birds, and otters.  

Thanks to their work and everyone else at WRE, for the first time we’ve been able to see a significant drop in breeding across a large chunk of East Anglia in 2022. This means there is a very real chance of removing them entirely from the EA countryside, something that was only a vague hope at the start of the project. We are already seeing water voles returning to places where they’ve been missing for many years which is a positive sign that the early mornings or late evenings scrambling through the undergrowth to reach remote traps has been worthwhile. 

Vince, who started trapping mink on the CRT’s Lark Rise Farm near Cambridge in 2010 and is now responsible for trapping across Cambridgeshire, says the key to their success has been the next-generation smart traps. These are cage traps that send a text and email as soon as the trap is activated, allowing the rapid and safe release of any non-target animal, and the quick dispatch of any mink.  

“This means trapping can be done all year round, with far fewer visits than with the older, clay-trap system that needed frequent routine visits," explains Vince. "We have seen a two-thirds reduction in numbers of mink being caught with just one year of scaled-up effort, and this leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the tide is turning in our favour.” 

Both Vince and Emily’s work has been recognised this week with an article in The Times newspaper, and the arrival of TV cameras to talk about how the project has unfolded. A great deal of vital conservation work goes on unseen, and the individuals who carry out this work are perhaps happier in waders out of the limelight but it’s still great to see them get some recognition. 

“Vince, Emily, and all those who have given up their time to be involved in WRE, should be applauded,” said Danielle Dewe, CEO. “It’s this kind of work that makes such a huge difference to the wider countryside and is exactly what the CRT stands for. It’s rewarding to see hard environmental efforts like this start to pay dividends,” she added.