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Bid to save wildlife from foreign 'invaders'

By Donna MacAllister

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An American Mink with a duck for dinner.
An American Mink with a duck for dinner.

PROJECT managers are now in place to lead an ambitious four-year scheme to reduce the population of American mink and target non-native plants including Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed around riverbanks in Nairn, Findhorn and Lossiemouth.

The programme being managed by the Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust is getting under way thanks to grant funding from Scottish Natural Heritage via the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Four project managers plus a volunteer and communications officer have been recruited to run the initiative, which has a base at Logie Steading, near Forres.

They will sign up and manage training for a strong network of locals volunteers to help reduce the non-native plant and animal species in the riverbank areas.

Giant hogweed is a noticeable feature. It shades out native vegetation and its sap can cause nasty blisters and recurring photosensitivity of the skin.

American mink prey on native species like water voles and fish as well as domestic animals such as chickens and pheasants.

Bob Laughton, director of the Nairn, Findhorn and Lossie Fisheries Trust, said the funding – totalling £1.59 million – would make a significant difference to their population.

He said data would be gathered to show where the predators enter the project area, making it easier to control them in future.

The animals will be tracked, trapped and humanely shot by air pistol.

He said the funding was a real windfall.

"The really important thing from this is that it gives us four years to plan and do things properly so we can target areas well.

"It will be difficult. There’s no point in beating about the bush. "The one thing that we have noticed in the past is you can knock down a population to quite a low level but then people lose interest – and that the difficult bit to get over.

"But there’s a few things we have tried in the past which have worked well."

Mr Laughton wants to work with small groups of volunteers who will be fully trained at no cost.

He said: "We are very grateful to Scottish Natural Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thishas really enabled us to take a step-change in our approach and to engage communities over the next four years."

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