Call for volunteers to tackle invasive American mink in northern Scotland

Roderick Low

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative – the largest invasive non-native species control project in the British Isles - has been tackling non-native invasive species in northern Scotland since 2018. 

Last year, the project was awarded £2.08 million from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund to continue its work until at least 2026. The project is managed by NatureScot and works in partnership with ten Fishery Trusts and the University of Aberdeen. The project is now looking to recruit new volunteers to expand and improve its American mink detection and control network across the north of Scotland.

The American mink was brought to Scotland for fur-farming in 1938 and, following both escapes and deliberate releases, became established in the wild in the 1960’s.  Mink are voracious and opportunistic predators taking whatever prey is available to them - often killing more than they require for food at that time. Their presence in the countryside has devastating effects on native biodiversity, particularly ground nesting birds and water vole populations. Water voles are the UK’s most rapidly declining mammal and predation by the American mink is a major cause of their decline.

Scottish Invasive Species Initiative Project Manager Callum Sinclair said: “American mink pose a serious threat to Scottish wildlife and can wipe out local populations of vulnerable birds and mammals. We are currently in the midst of a global biodiversity crisis – removing this threat is a vital step to safeguarding the future of native wildlife in Scotland.”

“We have a team of dedicated volunteers active across north-east Scotland but we are looking to expand our coverage across our whole area – from Tayside in the south to West Sutherland in the north and all parts in between. In particular, we would like to strengthen our network in the Cromarty, Ness and Beauly river catchments in the East Highlands; the Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie catchments in Moray and Nairnshire; and the Bervie Water and the Esk catchments in Angus. We’re looking to monitor burns, tributaries and coastal areas – not just the major rivers.  Anyone interested in getting involved can email for more information.”

No experience is required to adopt a mink raft and anyone can sign up. The project team will provide all necessary equipment and training, help set up the raft and are always contactable if you need advice or assistance. The raft contains a clay pad hidden inside a tunnel and when mink enter the tunnel to explore, they will leave identifiable footprints in the clay. Mink are very curious animals and will be interested in any unusual stimulus in their environment. Once a raft is set up the volunteer just needs to check it for footprints every couple of weeks. If mink are detected a live-capture trap is set and, if caught, the mink will be humanely despatched by the project team.

Scientific advisor to the project Professor Xavier Lambin, from the University of Aberdeen said: “This is a critical time of year to be monitoring and catching mink. Over the spring months we will see an increase in mink activity as they enter the breeding season; males will be moving around large areas looking for mates and females will be establishing breeding territories. We want to detect and capture females before they have a chance to reproduce – their young will spread and recolonise areas we previously freed from the damaging influence of mink and where native wildlife can thrive.”

The project has a new tool available in the fight against this invasive predator - ‘Smart traps’, which are fitted with a remote monitoring device able to detect when a trap is triggered and send an alert to the local volunteer. Traps with these devices do not need to be checked daily by volunteers and so make managing a trap much less time consuming.  This also means that the team can respond rapidly to animal captures.

Jane Hamilton, Volunteer and Communications Officer for the project, added: “Volunteers are central to everything we do – and vital to the success of our mink project. We work at a landscape-scale, covering many river catchments and over a third of mainland Scotland. Mink monitoring is only effective at this scale with a comprehensive network of rafts and traps, but we still have gaps in our coverage. If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch – your area could be crucial in the fight against this invasive predator.”

To find out more about mink control with the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, or the wider project, visit You can also follow their work on social media or contact the team at

Contact information

NatureScot Media
0131 316 2655

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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