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Turning Back the Tide of American Mink Invasion in Partnership with Communities

  • Author(s): Lambin, Xavier
  • Bryce, Ros
  • Fraser, Elaine J.
  • Melero, Yolanda
  • Oliver, Matthew K.
  • Walker, Hollie
  • et al.
Abstract

Successful eradications of harmful invasive species have been mostly confined to islands while control programs in mainland areas remain small, uncoordinated, and vulnerable to recolonisation. To allow the recovery of threatened native species, innovative management strategies are required to remove invasives from large areas. We took an adaptive approach to achieve largescale eradication of invasive American mink in North East Scotland. The project was centered on the Cairngorms National Park (Scotland), with the primary aim of protecting endangered water vole populations. The project was initiated by scientists and supported and implemented through a partnership comprising a government agency, national park authority, and local fisheries boards. Capitalising on the convergent interests of a diverse range of local stakeholders, we created a coordinated coalition of trained volunteers to detect and trap mink. Starting in montane headwaters, we systematically moved down river catchments, deploying mink rafts, an effective detection and trapping platform. Volunteers took increasing responsibility for raft monitoring and mink trapping as the project progressed. Within 3 years, the project removed 376 mink from 10,570 km2 (4,081 mi2) with the involvement of 186 volunteers. Capture rate within sub-catchments increased with greater connectivity to mink in other sub-catchments and with proximity to the coast, where there is more productive habitat. The main factor underpinning the success of this project was functional volunteer participation. The project is a reason for optimism that the tide of invasion can be rolled back on a large scale where the convergent interest of local communities can be harnessed. A successor to this project using the same volunteer-based approach and partnership between conservation practitioners and academic scientists is now expanding to up to 20,000 km2 (7,722 mi2). The research of the expanded project component now focuses on depensatory processes operating in very-low-density populations.

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