We recommend you use an air weapon rather than a firearm. It is much easier to carry about discreetly, doesn’t make you conspicuous and sinister, is quiet in use, safe for the operator, trap and bystander, and is perfectly adequate for the job provided you follow the procedure described below.
Currently, an air pistol generating up to 6lbs muzzle energy may be held and used in the UK without a Firearms Certificate. You must be over 18 to purchase such a weapon. Air weapons may be sold only in person from a shop, not by mail order. To use an air weapon you must be over 14, but the weapon must be transported to the venue where it is used by someone over 18. Persons under 14 must be supervised by someone over 21. There is a trend towards tighter restrictions. The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 means that a licence will be required for purchase or possession of all air weapons in Scotland, with expected effect from April 2016. In all cases you must have authority from the landowner or shooting
tenant for the land on which the weapon is used.
With air weapons, more power costs more money. We have researched the cheaper end of the market and can vouch for the ability of an air pistol producing a muzzle energy of 3.1ft lbs or more to kill even the largest mink (1.7kg) humanely.
Currently the Webley Typhoon is probably the best buy for the purpose at about £75, but difficult to obtain. A good alternative is the Benjamin Trail NP at about £120. For such relatively low-power weapons, it is also critical to use ‘Prometheus’ steel-tipped conical pellets (lead alloy pellets will not penetrate), and
to follow the procedure described below. An air rifle (legal limit 12ft lbs) can also be used, but is considerably more awkward to manipulate, more conspicuous as you travel between traps and the extra power is unnecessary.
To use an air weapon humanely the mink must be held still in the trap. This is easily done using two plywood ‘combs’ to form the equivalent of a livestock handling crush. The combs are made by cutting slots with a saw in 10mm plywood boards, so that the remaining ‘tines’ fit through the mesh of the cage trap from above, forming a divider within the trap.
Once exposed in a trap a mink may scream loudly and incessantly until it is dispatched. So prepare the air pistol, pellets and trap combs before removing the wooden tunnel or pulling out the trap. Check that the pistol barrel is clear before loading it. If the mink has been caught on a raft, it is convenient to dispatch it on the raft in the water (the raft can be floated away from public view). Remove the wooden tunnel (or pull out the trap) and by inserting the combs alternately, gently push the mink to the end of the trap farthest from the door, until it is confined to a space only one or two meshes long. By easing or increasing pressure, you can allow the animal to squirm around or hold it in position.
Using the comb as a lever, push the mink up towards the roof of the trap, letting it squirm around until its head is immediately below the roof mesh, then clamp it in position by pressing on the comb. With the gun barrel perpendicular to the cranium, push the muzzle of the barrel down firmly and shoot the mink. Avoid the very strong centre line of the skull. Do not fire unless you have achieved the muzzle/cranium contact described. (If the muzzle is not perpendicular to the cranium, or if there is insufficient downward pressure, the pellet may glance off or fail to penetrate). Note that when using Prometheus pellets, the plastic skirt of the pellet typically lodges at the surface, while the steel pellet itself separates and penetrates deep into the brain.
One shot properly placed like this will cause instant and irreversible loss of consciousness, but be prepared for convulsions and kicks as the animal dies. To confirm that the animal is unconscious, lightly touch one of its eyes with a piece of vegetation. If there is no blink reflex. the animal is unconscious. Although a single shot may be all it takes, we recommend that you fire a second shot into the junction between the neck and the back of the skull to destroy the brain stem. This can usually be achieved without emptying the animal out of the trap. Any regular breathing action also indicates that it is not dead. The carcass should be disposed of responsibly by incineration or burial.
To maintain the muzzle energy of an air weapon, the barrel must be kept clean and pellets should ideally be lightly lubricated with a specialist airgun oil (e.g. Napier Power). Do not use shotgun oil or any other kind, which will leave a residue when dry.
We do not recommend the use of firearms to dispatch cage-trapped mink. A .22 rim-fire pistol or rifle should never be used. If you are close enough to dependably hit the mink in the trap, you are at severe risk of being wounded by ricochet, and furthermore you will damage the trap. A shotgun can be used with a normal game or clay-shooting cartridge, though you must realise that its use at close quarters is risky. Place the trap in front of a safe background, retreat to a distance of about 10m (pace it out), and take careful aim. Do not allow any bystanders closer to the trap than this, and be aware that shot and fragments can richochet high above the trap. Please also remember that shot can ricochet off a water surface.
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