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On my walks around Bute I see a good lot of interesting things. I never go out without something catching my eye. One day at Ettrick Bay at the entrance to Largievrechtan Farm was a "Mink". It did not seem to mind my presence in the least, until I tried to get very close for a photo. (I had the wrong camera with me). It scuttled away into the burn to be a safe distance from me, and then once more relaxed. I moved very slowly to get nearer it and got what you see with my camera.
It stayed around for a short while I stayed very still hoping that it would come a bit nearer. This was not to be as it soon scarpered away out of sight. It would appear that Bute has a great deal of these "American Mink" which were introduced to this country for the Fur Trade. There was one farm on Bute which I helped build during the mid / late fifties when I was an apprentice joiner. This farm ran for several years then it ceased to trade like many other farms. Over many years some farms had escapees, these soon met with escapees from other farms and bred and now have become a bit of a nuisance in some areas. Bute has its fair share of them, and they can be seen around most lochs on the island, and as in my photo, in a burn beside the sea. They are not a big problem yet, although they have been around for some time, but as their numbers increase, they may cause problems in the future.
Nowadays there shot on sight as they are very efficient killers, so this may keep the population at a lower level for a long time. Otters were getting the blame for the amount of fish that were being killed but the culprits were the mink. They are cute little things which feed on fish, water birds, and waterside small mammals. It looks just like an otter but is smaller and slimmer with a shorter tail. Initially they were dark brown to almost black, now they can be seen to be mid brown to fawn in colour making identification harder as the young ones look just like big rats.
They are quite tame and will approach humans without fear which inevitably could be there downfall as they could be caught or shot quite easily. As you can see they look quite cute in appearance, just like a ferret or a polecat, but they are not wanted so they will be persecuted for evermore until they no longer exist. I suppose that if you own a stretch of a very good salmon river or a loch that you stock with brown and rainbow trout then will want to safeguard your investment as much as possible. You will lose a good amount by natural predators like the pike. But they are indigenous to our country, not so the mink.
Otters take fish as well but they are not as plentiful as the mink so they are left well alone. I think that it will be a long time, if ever that they will disappear from our island so keep your eyes peeled and you may be lucky to spot one. Keep very still and you may get even closer than I got, and it may hang around for a while. The lochs are the favourite places to spot them, but where there is water or marshes you may find them hunting for food.
First Published in the Buteman 19-09-2002.
Now at 2013. I very rarely see any