Please scroll this page down to get to the mink recording form.
A major concern at the current time (November 2012) is that of the expanding mink population which is believed to be having a detrimental effect on the local wildlife in this area. Members of the Society and others have noted an increase in the numbers of sightings of mink around the Leigh and Wigan Flashes over the last year.
Failure of common terns to raise any young at Wigan in 2012 has been attributed to mink breeding nearby rather than just the poor weather conditions. Numbers of mink are being seen at Pennington Flash and so wildfowl, waders and water voles will be equally at risk from these voracious predators, especially if numbers are high.
To get some indication of the mink numbers present in the Wigan and Leigh Flashes area, the Society is launching this recording page where members can enter all their sightings of mink from November 2012 onwards. The numbers in December to March, 2013 will indicate the size of the breeding population.
Underneath the data collection form is some information about Mink. Our thanks go to L.O.S. Conservation Officer Roy Rhodes and LOS Member Jay Knight for providing us with this and much more background information.
Some Background information about Mink
The mink which are regularly seen in the Wigan area are descendants of North American animals which escaped or were released from fur farms across the UK and now breed throughout England and Wales.
This text based on Rural Development Service Technical Advice Note 02, February 2005
Their size and shape is similar to a ferret, but usually with dark brown fur and a white chin patch although other colours do appear. Adult males average 1.2kg in weight and are around 600mm long including the slightly bushy tail, while females are about half the weight and about 500mm long.
Mink tend to be nocturnal but individuals are regularly out in daylight and especially in very cold weather. Their preferred habitat is near water with dense cover on the banks and with den sites such as the bases of old trees, rabbit burrows, dry stone walls and so on. A mink territory usually contains several dens. The animals swim and climb well and may forage away from water, with a male’s territory being around 2.5km of waterway and a female’s slightly less. They are mainly silent, but in the breeding season both sexes will make purring noises and they shriek when alarmed. They do not hibernate.
Mink take a wide range of prey including mammals, fish and birds, with ground-nesting birds being the most vulnerable. Around the Wigan and Leigh flashes, terns, waders and wildfowl are probably at greatest risk but mink are opportunistic feeders. Voles and rats are common prey and rabbits are regularly taken.
A pair of mink will mate between late February and the end of March in most years, with the young appearing in late April or May. They are weaned after about eight weeks, but stay with the female until late summer when the group begins to disperse and many individuals become solitary. Young mink can travel as much as 30 miles in autumn and winter in search of a suitable territory before they settle down.
Signs of Mink at a site
Mink can have dramatic effects on the numbers of their prey species and a rapid decrease in waterfowl numbers can often be the first indication that mink are present, because the animals themselves are seldom seen. They have fairly characteristic ways of killing prey –
Fish are normally killed by biting the backbone between the head and the dorsal fin.
Mammals and birds are normally killed by a bite to the neck, usually near the base
of the skull.
In a fresh kill, it is sometimes possible to see the puncture marks made by a Mink’s canine
teeth (about 8mm apart).
Footprints in soft mud can show the complete five-clawed print and are smaller than those
of an otter but bigger than those of a stoat. There is often a tail-drag mark and the hind feet
tracks can be in front of or superimposed on the front feet tracks.
Droppings can be firm or shapeless, varying from dark and tar-like to light brown. When firm
they are dark and sausage-shaped, twisted along the length and pointed at the ends. They
are usually 60-90mm long and around 9mm in diameter, often containing fur, feathers and
fish scales and have a distinctive odour. Dens can sometimes be located by the smell from
droppings and carcase remains.