A mink-free GB: perspectives on eradicating American mink Neovison vison from Great Britain and its islands.
This paper examines the case for, and plausibility of, eradicating American mink Neovison vison from mainland Great Britain and its associated offshore islands. This invasive species causes extensive damage to native fauna throughout Europe, and the UK Government is obliged to eradicate it, if feasible, under the Bern Convention. Current mink control buys time, but is patchy and dependent on substantial funding in perpetuity. If enacted, eradication would be cheaper in the long term and much more effective in preserving native wildlife. The methodology of an eradication campaign is explored, together with risks, challenges, and a tentative timeline and cost. We judge that mink eradication is now logistically feasible, due to technological developments and experience gained from landscape-scale control. Using live traps fitted with electronic sensors - 'smart' traps - as the primary means of catching mink would render the campaign efficient, humane and free of non-target mortality and negative environmental impacts. The ecological benefits of mink eradication would be profound, including greatly improving prospects for water vole Arvicola amphibius populations. Reinvasion is highly unlikely. The greatest logistical challenge is probably removing mink from Scottish west coast islands. Eradication might take around a decade and be dependent on co-ordination between many conservation, fishing, farming, and water-related organisations, together with the consent of landowners. By adding alarms to existing mink traps, land and water managers can pave the way to eradication now. A mink-free Great Britain would plausibly cost tens of millions of pounds, against which could be set the limitless future costs of mink control. Such a campaign would be by far the world's largest invasive predator eradication project by geographical area and would set a precedent for citizen-led conservation action globally. Regional trials would be extremely valuable in determining the costs and practicality of a GB-wide campaign.