Mink hunting is a summer bloodsport that fills that gap between the end of
one fox/hare hunting season and the start of the next. "Invented" as a
replacement to otter hunting, which dissolved after the otter became a protected
species, the mink was seen by otter hunters as a handy replacement and a new
"sport" was born. Introduced from North America by fur farmers, mink were simply
released into the British countryside by the farmers themselves, when the fur
market collapsed. Mink measure about 60 cm long, of which just under a third is
tail, and a large male may weigh over 1kg. They normally settle close to streams
There are 20 registered mink hunts in Britain; their hounds are a
raggle-taggle bunch of pure and cross-bred otter hounds and ex-foxhounds. The
huntsman and hounds, followed by supporters on foot, search a river for any
signs of a mink (tracks, droppings, abandoned prey...) or its overnight scent,
called a "drag". Once the hounds find a drag or fresh line of scent they will
give voice and alert the huntsman.
The mink will use its size, agility and swimming ability to evade the hounds,
doubling back and retracing its tracks to confuse its pursuers. They often take
refuge in holes in the river bank or under tree roots. The hunt will then try to
flush out the mink using terriers, spades or sticks.
Mink will also flee up trees to try and escape the hounds but hunt followers
will shake the branches with poles or throw stones to dislodge the terrified
animal. Trees have actually been cut down by huntsmen desperate to kill their
quarry. If all else fails, a mink that climbs a tree will be shot.
When a mink is caught it may be drowned, thrown live to the hounds or
alternatively, released and hunted again.
AND HOW TO STOP IT...
Hunt saboteurs believe that the only way to actually prevent a mink hunt from
killing is by being there. Sabs use simple yet incredibly effective tactics
designed to give the hunted mink the edge over its persecutors.
Anyone can be taught these tactics to sabotage a hunt. Walking ahead of the
hunt, saboteurs will make noise to get any mink in the area moving away from the
hounds. As with harehunting, sabs will try to talk to and distract the huntsman
to break his concentration. If the hounds pick up a scent saboteurs can crack
whips and "rate" (chastise) them. Some sabs will use horns to encourage the
hounds away from the river. If the mink finds refuge in a hole in the river
bank, in tree roots, or in a drain, or if it escapes up a tree, then sabs will
stand as close as possible to prevent the hunt from sending in terriers, or
knocking the mink from the tree.
Every summer hunt saboteur groups from around the country will be regularly
spoiling the "sport" of the mink hunters, and more importantly, saving the lives
of many animals from a cruel and bloody death.
SOME ARGUMENTS AGAINST MINK HUNTING:
- The mink has faced many accusations about its threat to native British
wildlife. However, scientific investigation by Dr Birk, of Durham University's
Zoology dept, and others, has revealed very little proof of these claims. For
example, the decline in the number of water voles rests (as usual) with
agricultural intensification. Given enough undisturbed habitat, mink and water
voles can co-exist and despite claims to the contrary, studies have found no
evidence to suggest that mink predation limits numbers of moorhens, coots and
- There are no "plagues" of mink; the mink is a solitary animal, only
visiting another minkšs territory to mate. The only time several mink will
normally be seen together is when a mother still has dependant young with her.
A mink killed by a hunt will only have its territory taken over by a
neighbouring or itinerant mink, thus rendering the "control" argument useless.
- Although mink, like our 'native' weasels and stoats, will take domestic
animals such as poultry, such vulnerable stock can be easily protected by
reasonable standards of hubandry. Ironically, most of a mink's diet is made up
of two other agricultural 'pests' - the rabbit and the rat. When viewed
alongside the damage done by these two species, "the mink's economic impact
upon human activities is negligible." [Dr Birk]
- Otters are extremely sensitive creatures and the disturbance caused by
mink hunters (not the mink themselves) is seen as a major factor preventing
otters re-colonising rivers where it takes place.
- The mink hunting season takes place when riverside birds are nesting and
rearing young. Considerable damage and disturbance is caused by mink hunting.
Ex-Spokesperson for conservation for the British Field Sports Society, Ian
Coghill, once ordered a mature willow be chainsawed down in order to bolt a
- Like all bloodsports, mink hunting is terribly cruel; the mink may be
chased for a considerable time and is always pursued if it tries to take
cover. If caught it can be drowned, shot or thrown alive to a pack of hounds
to tear limb from limb.