Government preparing plan to control mink

Alien species management plan 'has been prioritised'
Government preparing plan to control mink

A member of the weasel family, Mink is not natural to Ireland but was imported in the 1950s as part of a commercial fur production operation. Picture: Fran Veale

A national plan to control mink and other invasive species that are posing a serious threat to the country’s biodiversity is being prepared by the Government, it was confirmed during a debate in the Senate.

Minister of State Niall Collins said the alien species management plan, part of the Programme for Government, has been prioritised.

Co-ordinated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it will act as an overarching framework for policy and legislation.

It will set out actions to tackle invasive species and incorporate the range of monitoring and reporting activities already underway in accordance with European Union regulations.

Minister Collins said the plan will provide a useful shape and focus to the range of good work already being undertaken by the NPWS and other Departments as well as by local authorities and stakeholders.

“We hope to be in a position to provide positive updates on the development of the plan in the coming months as it moves closer to the public consultation phase,” he said.

Senator Paul Daly, who raised the issue, said mink, a member of the weasel family, is not natural to Ireland but was imported in the 1950s as part of a commercial fur production operation.

Due to many escapees, and in instances where the commercial entity may not have been as successful as people thought, mink was sometimes deliberately released.

“By nature, mink is an aggressive, opportunistic, and invasive predator with no natural predator of its own in the Irish landscape.

“Its population, therefore, is ever-growing. A mink will and can kill surplus to its food requirements,” he said, noting that wild mink numbers in Ireland are now estimated to be north of 50,000.

Senator Daly said when mink go into the hen houses of domestic fowl, they do not just kill the hens they want to eat but will kill all 10, 15 or 20 hens, fill their bellies and then they are gone.

“This is common, and not just with domestic fowl. They will also target any eggs, fish within our lakes and rivers and ground-nesting birds,” he said.

Senator Daly said many people have made sacrifices and bought into projects where their lands and properties have been devalued by designation for the hen harrier and numerous different species.

It is, therefore, a complete contradiction if some measure is not introduced to control the mink, he said.

Minister Collins outlined the legislative national and European Union framework for dealing with invasive alien species in Ireland.

Public bodies, Departments, and agencies work within this framework to manage, control and, where practicable, eradicate these species. Responsibility for dealing with them rests largely with landowners.

Much of the work happens at local level and is carried out by local authorities in their areas through their own biodiversity action plans.

Minister Collins said a range of ongoing efforts by the NPWS to control mink are primarily managed by the service's regional staff and under life projects such as those for curlew and corncrake.

“These efforts are focused on the protection of rare ground-nesting birds, and nest protection officers are in place across the country to control and remove mink where they catch them,” he said.

The Department's local biodiversity action fund also offers funding to help local authorities achieve actions identified by the national biodiversity action plan.

He said 29 of 31 local authorities have availed of this funding for 85 projects since 2019 with a total amount of over €1.1m being spent.

These include projects to control such species as Japanese knotweed and the quaga mussel, along with awareness and education.

However, there is a need for greater co-ordination and coherence in the overall approach to invasive alien species.

Funding was provided by the NPWS in 2012 for a scheme administered by the National Association of Regional Game Councils for a bounty on mink.

It was part of a wider effort to protect ground nesting birds in western counties. He understood it ran for three years until 2015 and is no longer in operation.

Renewal and expansion of the scheme would need to be discussed with the relevant parties and decisions taken in the context of the overall NPWS budget, priorities, and work programmes.

Senator Daly called on the Minister and Department to re-introduce the bounty scheme which worked in the areas where it was piloted.

It needs to be monitored and controlled and only be available to licensed gun and hunting clubs with terms and conditions.

Mink can travel up to 30 km in a night or two. They don’t recognise boundaries or borders. Their numbers will be north of 100,000 if controls are not introduced.

“If you corner a mink, he will face you. They do not back off. They have been known to kill very large animals and injure sick cows. They go for the jugular,” he said.

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Karen Walsh

Karen Walsh

Law of the Land


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