The American mink neovison vison is an established and widespread non-native invasive species in the UK (Martin & Lea 2020). They are known to have a significant impact on native British wildlife, mainly through predation. There have been multiple instance in the UK where the arrival of mink has been followed by the disappearance of water vole in the area (Macdonald & Harrington 2003). Mink have also seriously impacted on ground nesting birds, in Scotland, where they have been known to have cause the failure of entire tern colonies (Moore et al, 2003).
Mink therefore need to be managed, however, mink control has historically been financially costly and resource intensive. Due to limited funds most conservation organisations must prioritize and are unable to pursue large-scale projects (Doherty & Ritchie 2016). There is consequently a large incentive to ensure management is effective and explore new, potentially effective methods for population monitoring. This MScRes aims to determine presence in an area under localised management and lethal control, compared to area under no management. It also aims to evaluate if environmental DNA offers a sensitive and effective means of detecting mink in and around waterways. An qPCR assay shall be developed for the detection of mink eDNA. Data collection will take place on two rivers in North Wales. The Clwyedog, which has not been trapped to our knowledge previously and the Llifon, which underwent trapping, euthanising captured mink during 2019-2020 and the duration of this project.
In this project five rafts at each site will be checked for signs of mink every 2 weeks for 30 weeks. Upon detection of mink, a trap shall be set until a mink is caught or a maximum of 7-10 days has elapsed. Water samples shall be taken on 3 occasions from all rafts at both sites and tested for mink eDNA. An occupancy model shall then be employed to analyse the data while accounting for imperfect detection.