Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Conservationists gun for mink
Up to 10,000 mink will be killed in the Western Isles
A scheme has been drawn up to eradicate 10,000 mink on the isles of Lewis and Harris in the next five to 10 years.
Scientists, conservationists and local residents agreed on the plan during a seminar in Stornoway, organised by the Mink Eradication Scheme Hebrides (MESH).
It is hoped Lottery cash and European funding can be used to carry out the scheme.
The move comes after it was found the animals cause up to £500,000 of damage to crofting communities in the Western Isles each year.
Mink have attacked chickens and ducks, making it virtually impossible for crofters to keep free-range poultry in the islands.
Mink were also destroying the eggs and chicks of protected birds, and damaging fish farms.
The seminar was told that mink, who are great swimmers and use secure dens, were general predators.
International botanist David Bellamy, who attended the seminar, said: "I first came to the islands 40 years ago for a walking holiday and I know how many birds there were then.
"Now the birds are disappearing because of the mink. The battle against them has been waged since the 70's.
"We had experts from all over the world at this seminar. If the mink were eradicated we could have birds, eco-tourism and the crofters would be able to keep free range poultry once again which would help the economy."
Mark Miller Mundy, one of the co-founders of MESH, said a feasibility study would be set up as soon as possible.
The initial stage would be to totally eradicate mink from South Harris to prevent them getting across the Sound to North Uist.
The second stage would be an eradication scheme for North Harris and Lewis.
Mr Miller Mundy said Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Western Isles Council would have to be involved in the partnership but they were hoping to finance the eradication scheme from National Lottery and European funds.