Endangered bird back from the brink after cull of mink

Endangered bird back from the brink after cull of mink

THE endangered native corncrake is enjoying a resurgence following a statecontrolled cull of mink, one of its main predators.

The National Parks and WILDLIFE Service reported a 24% increase in the population of male corncrakes in 2014, with 230 calling male corncrakes recorded this year. The presence of feral American mink, combined with intensive farming, had caused a worrying drop in the bird population.

Pat Warner, divisional manager at the Corncrake Project, said: ‘This is a success story in conservation. In 2010, we started a new way of managing things. We removed a predatory animal, the wild American mink.’

Mink, which feed on the bird’s eggs or its young, established itself here after escaping – or being released – from fur farms.

Mr Warner said that the project was not trying to eradicate mink altogether because that would be too costly.

‘We started controlling the mink and we believe that’s what turned it around.’ Mr Warner and his team capture mink by installing traps by rivers.

He said: ‘We set a cage trap, about 2ft long, 6in high and wide, made of strong wire net. Sometimes we put bait – fish head or rabbit gut – in places where the mink are likely to run.

‘When they come to the trap, they are likely to go into it.

They’re very curious.’ The mink are then shot. Mr Warner added: ‘The project doesn’t sell the fur at all because it wouldn’t cover the transport cost.

‘We bury them or destroy them legally.’