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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Mink problem plagues Western Isles
The mink has been running amok in the Western Isles
Plans for a five-year conservation scheme aimed at wiping out the mink have been launched in the Western Isles.

The 1.65m programme aims to eradicate the animal because of the threat it poses to other island wildlife.

Despite being alien to Britain, mink have been wild in Lewis and Harris since the 1960s and have spread to the Uists in more recent times.

It is believed they were brought from America to be bred for the fur trade but were released or escaped from mink farms which were no longer commercially viable.

There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 adult mink in the Western Isles causing problems for native wildlife.

Threat to birds

The announcement, on Thursday, follows confirmation that the European Commission Life Nature Fund has accepted a bid from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) for half the total cost of the project.

The rest of the cash is being provided by SNH, the Scottish Executive, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Western Isles Council and Western Isles Enterprise.

SNH said that internationally important bird populations are under particular threat from mink.

David Maclennan, SNH area manager in the Western Isles, said: "The mink situation is very much a shared problem, spanning wildlife conservation, crofting, fisheries and even tourism.

"It is therefore in all our interests to find a solution.

Tackling the mink problem is a huge undertaking

RSPB's George Campbell

"Unfortunately, experiences of similar problems from throughout the world tell us that the only permanent solution is eradication."

Initially the problem will be tackled in the Uists and South Harris providing information which will be crucial in evaluating the much bigger task of how wider eradication throughout Lewis and Harris could be approached.

George Campbell, regional manager for the RSPB in north Scotland, said: "Tackling the mink problem is a huge undertaking. However, if we can motivate and maintain support right across the board, we have an opportunity to make significant progress."

The project will require a manager and 10 trappers, creating at least 11 jobs in remote areas.

Six trappers will begin work in North Uist and Benbecula and a further four will trap mink in the south of Harris.

Traps will be checked daily and all mink caught will be destroyed humanely.

BBC Scotland's Iain MacDonald reports
"There are over 10,000 breeding females in Lewis and Harris alone"
See also:

23 Nov 99 | Scotland
'Handle with care' warning over mink
23 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Ministers outline fur ban bill
18 Nov 99 | UK
Inside the fur farms
18 Sep 98 | UK
Mink on the run
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