As I wrote in a recent post on invasive species, the Water of Leith is home to a number of mink, which originally got into the wild when over enthusiastic animal rights activists released them from fur farms. Mink have been a huge problem on British waterways, they are very aggressive and eat anything. However, as our rivers have got cleaner and otters have returned then they can help keep the mink under control (otters are much bigger than mink and will fight them).
However in some places, the mink need a bit of human intervention to keep them under control.
The Scottish Mink Initiative works to protect native wildlife by removing breeding American mink from north Scotland and the Highlands. Since mink have been exterminated from the Trossachs, the
endangered water vole has
The River Forth Fisheries Trust and the Water of Leith Conservation Trust are working together to set up some mink rafts along
theWater of Leith in Edinburgh. Despite sounding like some sort of luxury boating experience
for the mink, the rafts are monitoring devices - the mink will run onto the
rafts and leave their footprints there so we can get some idea of how
active they are along the river. The raft will also record the presence of other waterside mammals, such as otters.
Yesterday I was at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre to help to set up a mink recording raft on the river and a night vision camera on a nearby tree.
While we were launching the raft onto the water, a mink appeared briefly and then a small otter appeared on the opposite side of the river and swam downriver for a few minutes, with all of following (quietly and at a discreet distance) after. Helen the manager of the Water of Leith Conservation Trust took this video. This was my best ever sighting of an otter and only the second time I've seen one along the Water of Leith.
Ironically, despite taking loads of photos of the day, I don't have any to upload here as I was using someone else's camera. Hopefully I'll be able to update with photos eventually! Meanwhile there are plenty of photos of the day in this blog-post from the River and Fisheries Trust in Scotland website.
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.