War waged on north Kent marshes killer

PUBLISHED: 11:18 10 February 2011




American mink should be eradicated from north Kent marshes to encourage wetland wildlife to return, according to experts.

Water Vole

As part of its Water Vole Project, Kent Wildlife Trust, supported by the RSPB, is hoping to get funds to remove the mink as naturalists blame them for a decline in more popular native species.

Traps are to be set up to rid the picturesque marshes – stretching 155 square miles from Gravesend to Seasalter – of the problem caused when some mink escaped and started breeding after being imported for their fur in the 1950s.

The trust wants to protect existing water vole populations on the Hoo peninsula and Isle of Sheppey from the predator.

Beth Nightingale, wildlife officer for Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “The project is just being developed. The trust hopes to secure funding in the near future which will allow us to take it forward.

“The water vole is one of the most threatened mammals in the UK. Historically, it has suffered from loss of habitat but, in more recent years, it has been preyed on by an increasing population of American mink.

“Mink are such efficient predators that they can clear out water voles from huge areas. Without urgent action, the water vole may eventually become extinct in Kent. Mink are also efficient predators of water birds and fish.”

Alan Johnson, from the RSPB, said trenches in the north Kent wetlands were an ideal habitat for species such as water voles. He added: “Those species aren’t here, and that’s probably because of the mink.

“A mink raft would help clear the species. The animals jump on the raft to investigate, they are then caught in a trap, collected and destroyed.”

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