Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 09:06 UK

Mink returns to 'safe' area in Western Isles

Generic mink
More than 1,000 mink have been trapped on the islands

A non-native predator has returned to an area of the Western Isles where they were previously thought to have been eradicated.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been leading a project to trap and kill American mink on the islands.

The mammal has been blamed for declines in ground-nesting wild birds.

Started in 2001, the project has now entered its final year but SNH said an a small number of mink had returned to part of North Uist.

So far 1,232 mink have been killed.

The animal was farmed for its fur on the isles in the 1960s and 1970s.

RSPB support

Escaped mink bred in the wild and their numbers quickly rose.

Populations of seabirds such as Arctic tern, common tern, black throated diver and corncrakes declined, but SNH said some have since recovered.

Bird conservation charity RSPB Scotland supports the eradication programme.

The RSPB's Western Isles conservation officer Martin Scott said: "The rediscovery of mink on the Uists demonstrates the importance of seeing such projects through to completion

"We believe that with the right support and management this can be achieved in the Western Isles, benefiting wildlife, creating jobs and supporting poultry, angling and fish farm businesses."

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