Fighting Alien species in Deeside may sound a little fantastical, but that’s exactly what a dedicated band of volunteers have been up to.
A group of River Dee mink raft volunteers enjoyed an afternoon looking for suitable water vole habitat around Tarland last week.
Over 70 mink rafts across the Dee catchment are monitored by a network of volunteers looking for signs of the non-native, ‘Alien’ mammal that predates upon water voles.
Mink have been trapped on the Dee since the 1990s resulting in low numbers as last year there were 6 confirmed sightings and 3 mink trapped.
Mink sightings have declined since the usual burst of activity during February and March when mink are looking for mates.
At this time of year there will still be some males roaming, but the females will be fixed to their territories.
There has been a few sightings on the main stem around Park, Drumoak and Tilbouries and efforts by the Ghillies have been stepped up to trap these individuals sighted over the past six weeks. Recent sightings have also been confirmed on the Cowie by Stonehaven.
The Alien animals were first brought to the UK in the 1950s, imported from America to be farmed for their fur.
After some escaped - or were released - they have spread around the country, and scientists estimate there are now tens of thousands throughout the UK.
The predators have had a devastating impact on local river wildlife, affecting birds such as moorhens, coots, widgeon and teal, fish and most markedly water voles, which have declined by more than 95% over the last 50 years. Conservationists are left with a stark choice: either leave the mink alone and allow the UK’s native wildlife to continue to decline, or remove and humanely dispatch them.
River biologist Jamie Urquart of the River Don Trust said: “It can be a contentious issue for some, but given it is an invasive species that is not supposed to be here...I feel I would like to rectify that where possible by doing my part and helping in this project.”