The mink we have in Britain are not native here. They are American mink, which originated from mink brought here for fur-farming. In continental Europe, there is also a European mink, a somewhat different species and now endangered. The European mink has apparently never existed in the British Isles.
A widespread modern misconception is that the UK’s wild population of American mink originated from mass releases of mink from fur farms by animal rights activists in the 1990s. Many people will remember these dramatic events for the sheer numbers of mink involved. In fact, the wild population was established decades earlier from multiple escapes (and perhaps deliberate releases) all over the country.
Colonisation of Britain is probably still ongoing: areas in the extreme north of Scotland appear not to have mink yet. Now that the mink is established, it raises awkward issues shared with a long list of other introduced species. The problem of how to deal with invasive introduced species is substantial, and strategic thinking is still in its infancy (see NNSS website). So as yet there is no official national strategy for managing mink, although the main interest groups – under the leadership of the GWCT - are collaborating to create one. Fundamental questions include ‘How much control of mink numbers is needed to preserve biodiversity?’ and ‘How much control is possible, and what does it cost?’
In the early 60s The Game Research Association, the forerunner to the GWCT argued that this was an extra predator that the UK could do without and urged MAFF to mop them while it was still possible for the sake of game and other wildlife. Mink have increased in numbers and become a regular part of the predator bag in the National Game Bag Census. In 2001, the UK Water Vole BAP Steering Group declared that without strategic mink control the water vole would be lost to the majority of British countryside. With this in mind the Trust has carried out research into mink control and our Mink Raft is now an effective tool in many river systems throughout the UK and aided in the recovery of water vole populations.