Eradicating American mink and conserving the native water vole population

Eradicating American mink and conserving the native water vole population

Eradication of an invasive alien predator through empowering community conservation stakeholders

The American mink was an accidental addition to British wildlife, the result of escape from fur farms. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen studying water vole population ecology pointed to sharp decline in numbers of water voles. They identified the invasive, predatory American mink as the reason for the growing extinction of native water voles. 

As a result of this research, Professor Xavier Lambin, Professor of Ecology at the University of Aberdeen conceived and led a mink eradication programme in the Cairngorms National Park. This effort became the world’s largest mainland species eradication programme, involving many hundreds of volunteers involved in catching mink from specially designed mink rafts.

This programme successfully and humanely removed breeding mink from a vast tract of land in Scotland and secured the future of the water vole – an iconic symbol of natural heritage.

This conservation success story is now being used as a template for the management of invasive mink in other eradication initiatives in Scotland and internationally. Directed conservation action can empower local communities to ensure a significant positive outcome for our native wildlife

Professor Xavier Lambin

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Key publications

  • Aars J, Lambin X, Denny R & Griffin A. (2001) Water vole in the Scottish uplands: distribution patterns of disturbed and pristine populations ahead and behind the American mink invasion front. Animal Conservation 4, 187-194. 
  • Bryce R, Oliver MK, Davies L, Gray H, Urquhart J & Lambin X. (2011) Turning back the tide of American mink invasion at an unprecedented scale through community participation and adaptive management. Biological Conservation 144, 575–583. 
  • Oliver M, Luque-Larena JJ & Lambin X. (2009) Do rabbits eat voles? Apparent competition, habitat heterogeneity and large-scale coexistence under mink predation. Ecology Letters 12, 1201-1209.
  • Zalewski A, Piertney SB, Zalewska H & Lambin X. (2009) Landscape barriers reduce gene flow in an invasive carnivore: geographical and local genetic structure of American mink in Scotland. Molecular Ecology 18, 1601-1615. 
  • Fraser EJ, Macdonald DW, Oliver MK, Piertney SB & Lambin X. (2013) Using population genetic structure of an invasive mammal to target control efforts – an example of the American mink in Scotland.   Biological Conservation 167, 35-42.
  • Beirne C & Lambin X. (2013) Understanding the determinants of volunteer retention through capture-recapture analysis: answering social science questions using a wildlife ecology toolkit. Conservation Letters - DOI: 10.1111/conl.12023.