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Empirical development of strategy for the control of invasive American mink by trapping


American mink (Neovison vison) are an ecologically damaging invasive species in Europe and Iceland where attempts to control them typically rely on trapping. The focus and efficiency of trapping can be improved by using track-recording mink rafts to identify where mink are present before traps are deployed. This paper describes development of operating strategy for the use of mink rafts with traps, to optimise capture efficiency against costs. We worked sequentially on two unconnected chalk streams in central southern England. On 17 km of the River Itchen, we operated a very high density of rafts (5.9 per km) through spring and summer to generate multiple detections of each mink present. All rafts recording mink tracks were armed with traps, and captured mink were euthanased. After removal of mink until no further detections were made, we calculated that each mink was detected 5.3 times at 5.1 raft sites, and on this basis, rationalised raft density to a standard one per kilometer of river. We set a trap deployment time (10 days) that encompassed the longest observed lapse from detection to capture (7 days), and extended the check interval for rafts in monitoring mode from 1 week to 2 weeks to further reduce costs. These operating rules were then deployed for 12 months on the 44-km River Wylye beginning in autumn. Rafts indicated that the river was cleared of mink through the capture of seven individuals, each of which was detected 3.6 times at 2.7 raft sites, on average, and was trapped within 6 days of detection giving a response time of less than 20 days. Although these operating rules may need refinement for other environments, we believe this is a sound basis for effective mink control.

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Both projects were funded by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). We are grateful to A. Frake (EA), T. Sykes (EA), T. Wells (GWCT Fisheries Steering Committee), J. Glasspool (The Test and Itchen Association Ltd.), R. Strachan (EA and Oxford University), and many fishing clubs, landowners and river keepers, who encouraged us and allowed access to the two rivers; and to N. Fisher for help with fieldwork on the Itchen in summer 2003.

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Correspondence to Jonathan Reynolds.

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Communicated by G. Nugent

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Porteus, T., Short, M., Richardson, S. et al. Empirical development of strategy for the control of invasive American mink by trapping. Eur J Wildl Res 58, 403–413 (2012).

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  • American mink
  • British Isles
  • Efficiency
  • Mink raft
  • Neovison vison
  • Population control