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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 16:41 GMT
Search for island mink trappers
By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland news website
Highlands and Islands reporter

Government agency Scottish Natural Heritage is gearing up to wage its latest battle to control a non-native predator in the Western Isles.

Mink are blamed for preying on native wildlife

The job spec reads like an advert for a mercenary.

Experience of firearms, the ability to walk up to 20km (12 miles) across moor land and skills in boat handling desirable.

However, it is not an ad for a hired gun for a far flung combat zone but SNH's preferred requirements for 14 mink trappers for the Western Isles.

The agency is in the process of launching its next phase of the Hebridean Mink Project aimed at wiping out the animal.

The scheme was extended to Lewis and Harris following its success in the Uists.

Monitoring work by RSPB Scotland found that nesting Arctic terns and their young have a better chance of survival where the mink had been trapped and shot.

We are quite aware that there will be opposition - we've been dealing with for five years
Shona MacLellan of SNH

The terns are summer visitors to the Outer Hebrides after embarking on an arduous and long journey from the Antarctic, but often only to fall prey to an animal which has also come from a distant land.

Mink, which is related to Britain's native weasel but not native to UK, have been living wild on Lewis and Harris since the 1960s.

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

Conservationists say they prey on ground-nesting birds, such as terns, particularly in the breeding season.

They are also accused of threatening some of the country's most fragile water vole populations.

Shona MacLellan, of SNH, said: "The mink problem has been around for a number of years.

"It actually started off in Harris because of the farming down there, but it's spread up to Lewis and it's spread into as far as South Uist as well.

"We have managed to control the mink in South Uist and this is us now trying to control them in the rest of the Western Isles."

She added: "We are quite aware that there will be opposition - we've been dealing with it for five years.

"It is for the best. We have to do this, it's the only way at the moment."

New campaign waged against mink
01 Sep 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Mink 'run amok' in bird colonies
24 May 06 |  Highlands and Islands
'Ratty' given protection officer
11 May 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Mink attacks threaten water voles
09 May 06 |  South Yorkshire
Isles mink cull to be stepped up
30 Dec 05 |  Scotland
Mink being wiped out in Hebrides
24 Jan 05 |  Scotland

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