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Breeding like, er, rabbits

 
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tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44229
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 04 7:46 pm    Post subject: Breeding like, er, rabbits  Reply with quote    

Otters are up, dormice are down, and rabbits are running rampant.
These are just three of the findings on British mammal populations released by the Mammal Society.

A decade ago, the Society produced its first nationwide survey; and it has just repeated the exercise, using information from professional conservationists and amateur enthusiasts.

The Society says it needs more volunteers to help track changes in these animals.

The rabbit has clearly become a dominant British mammal - along with humans and probably rats. The rabbit population is now estimated to be 40 million. It has risen by around 10% in 10 years.

But the most spectacular rise documented in this survey is that of the polecat.

Its population has grown from 15,000 to more than 60,000 in a decade - partly, according to Mammal Society Chairman Michael Woods, because gamekeepers are no longer suppressing its numbers.

"The number of gamekeepers has declined dramatically, and the polecat has responded by expanding its range," Mr Woods told BBC News.

We know so little about most British mammals
Michael Woods, Mammal Society

Other species on the rise include:
the badger; up from around 175,000 to 275,000
seals; with the common seal up from 35,000 to around 50,000, and the grey seal from 93,000 to 130,000
the otter; which shows a rise from around 7,000 to 12,000
"The story behind the otter's success is mainly the stopping of the really bad pesticides such as aldrin and dieldrin, which were commonly used in the 60s," explains Michael Woods.

"But then there's been a huge amount of effort in trying to make waterways better for otters, improving their habitat, providing them with more cover - and in some areas, particularly the eastern counties, there have been re-introductions as well."

The return of the otter is bad news for the mink, whose numbers have slid from 110,000 to 37,000.

They are being out-competed and sometimes out-fought by otters.

Having been introduced for fur farming, mink escaped in substantial numbers in the 1950s, establishing wild populations. Their decline is unlikely to be lamented.

The wild cat is, however, a cause for major concern, says the Mammal Society, with the population in the Scottish Highlands now thought to be only a few hundred.

The dormouse is also fading - though the Society says it is not sure by how much.

In fact, it says, it needs many more volunteers to collect data on all mammals.

"We know so little about most British mammals - the bird world is far ahead of us," laments Michael Woods. "Birds are easier to watch - most mammals come out at night, and they're difficult to watch."

When bird charities do surveys, tens of thousands of people respond. The Mammal Society says it needs a volunteer army of comparable size.

"The more people we have got telling us what's happening to mammals out there, the better figures like this will be, and the sooner we will notice crashes like the otter suffered in the 60s," Michael Woods says.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/4056691.stm

Published: 2004/11/30 20:29:51 GMT

sean
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 41950
Location: North Devon
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 04 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Hard to get upset about bad news for mink.

Treacodactyl
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 25697
Location: Jumping on the bandwagon of opportunism
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 04 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I think more should be done to encourage people to eat rabbit and it would be good if some of the shhoting organisations could arrange a scheme to put shooters into contact with farmers to controll rabbits and to get them for the pot!

I thought mink were activly tracked down and killed because of the damage they do.

No mention of the tree rats I notice.

Joey



Joined: 03 Nov 2004
Posts: 191

PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 04 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Treacodactyl wrote:


No mention of the tree rats I notice.


Nor any mention of old Charles James Fox.

Aled
Guest





PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 04 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Bad news for some salmon anglers though with seal numbers up.
There was one on the Tywi all season.
Cheers
Aled

sean
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 41950
Location: North Devon
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 04 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

How significant is seal predation of salmon, compared with all the other things which impact on the population? I'm not having a go, I just thought someone on here might know.

deerstalker



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 589

PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 04 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Aled wrote:
Bad news for some salmon anglers though with seal numbers up.
There was one on the Tywi all season.
Cheers
Aled


Yeah, I know. I was asked to go and shoot it at Halfway just before the season started until I explained it's not quite that simple!

deerstalker



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 589

PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 04 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

sean wrote:
How significant is seal predation of salmon, compared with all the other things which impact on the population? I'm not having a go, I just thought someone on here might know.


Seals are now a major problem with salmon. With the large increase in the seal population and the dry summers (salmon hold up in large numbers in the estuary waiting to run), they can cause havoc.

The problem is, seals, a little like foxes kill vastly greater numbers of salmon than they can possibly eat.

Legion



Joined: 24 Nov 2004
Posts: 170
Location: Western isles, Scotland
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 04 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Interesting post tahir, especially about the wildcats, yet no official organisation ie SNH, will actually recognise there are still true wildcats out there in the wild or even that there have been programmes et up to keep them pure..
Despite the fact we can trace our pure wildcat lines right back to the 50's when they were first trapped, this can be verified. SNH still insist wildcats are hybrid ferrels ( I suppose that stops them having to put any money into their conservation).
Wildcats will breed with domestic cats, but there is a very big difference with the wildcat female, as unlike domesticated cats they dont breed until they are at least 2yrs old, sometimes 3yrs, and only ever have one litter of kittens a year.
As for mink, we have a trapping programme on the islands at the moment its been running over 3 yrs(its to run for 5yrs) at a cost of 1.64million. Mainly european money, the cost of trapping each mink runs in the region of 3,500 per mink trapped.
I just wonder what will happen when the money runs out and the population rises again.

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44229
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 04 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Legion wrote:
I just wonder what will happen when the money runs out and the population rises again.


So you don't reckon extermination is possible?

Legion



Joined: 24 Nov 2004
Posts: 170
Location: Western isles, Scotland
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 04 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Not a chance tahir, the first mistake the group made was to apply to europe for funding as an 'eradication programme' as eradication is impossible. The second mistake was to use local inexperienced people and scientists instead of traditional pest control methods and people who know their job( but they had to be seen as politically correct, using modern methods - let me find the script and I'll post it for you. You see the mink come over from Lewis and Harris, swimming up to 5 miles , so even if they managed to eradicate the mink here which is impossible, more will swim down.

Read below, its dated 2000, so is quite old.

Meeting 11th December 2000 .

There were 33 present at the Public meeting called by the Uist Mink Group and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in Lochmaddy Hall , North Uist . The main topic of debate was to be the feasibility study covering the problem of mink on the Hebrides by the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) , costing almost 20,000 , funded by SNH for their submission of a document to LIFE Funding (Europe) for eradicating mink on the Hebrides .
Niall Moore(CSL) gave a speech on the population turnover of mink and estimated that there was a complete turnaround every 3 years , and that a juvenile mink can travel up to 20 km in 6 days after leaving its nest in order to set up its own territory .
The SNH Area Officer from Lewis went on to give a background talk on how the mink came to be on the Hebrides , stating that in the early 60's they escaped or were released from 3 fur farms that were located on the west side of Lewis . They went undetected for 8 years , and by the 90's had made their way down onto Harris and the neighbouring small Islands such as Taransay, Ensay and Killegray . In 1992 a mink group had been formed with them employing 4 trappers at a cost of 8,000 each pa working from August to April each year , covering Harris and the smaller Islands in order to create a corridor stopping the mink from gaining any further ground towards the Uists .
By 1999 Mink had been confirmed on the Uists , and with this information July 99 saw the formation of MESH backed by Alisdair Morrisson MP , local councillors , RSPB , SNH , Western Isles Council , North Uist Estates and other bodies . 34,000 was obtained in funding in order to employ trappers . By this time mink were seen as far down as South Uist . Trails were done to see if they could trap males during the summer months of 2000 , this proved to be a failure.
Up to the date of the report 42 mink and 113 polecat ferrets had been trapped ,27 by the trappers and 15 by the local fish farmers . Mink by this time were estimated to cover 8.7% of North Uist and 5% of Benbecula .It was suggested that the feral ferrets had originally been brought to the Islands in vans and subsequently released .
John love (SNH) stated that even by trapping they could not guarantee complete eradication as "almost certainly some you would never catch in a live trap as they would be trap shy".
Peter Robertson CSL , then made estimated costs of the mink in relation to the economy of the Islands , stating losses of up to 10M tourism , due to the potential negative effects on major bird populations in the area . Freshwater fishing 4M ,although there is no financial estimate due to mink presence , it is widely known that mink have a negative impact . Fish farming 13M again no financial estimates were forward , although it is widely known that mink have a negative impact .Free range poultry , estimates for the loss of egg production throughout the Islands was in the region of 600,000 , although they freely admitted that this figure was likely to be somewhat overestimated .Game shooting , no financial estimates were included , although it is known that mink have a negative impact . The Estates currently trapped approx. 500 mink annually . SPA's (Special Areas of interest ) could suffer from the mink problem should they cause significant damage, by putting the area at risk from EU fines . Biodiversity , no financial costs could be attributed to this as the further spread of mink would lead to a significant reduction in the population of ground nesting birds (there are few trees on the Hebrides ) .
He then went on to methods of eradication which includes poisoning , various live traps , non lethal control by chemical contraception and the use of dogs . Dogs being politically unacceptable due to the Hunting with dogs bill going through parliament , although a suggestion was put forward about using muzzled dogs in order to locate the mink. Iceland was then brought up as an example where dogs were used , and we were told that in Iceland the dogs were used to kill mink , not as part of an eradication programme but for sport .
It was then decided that there was no option but to put a full phased eradication programme into action throughout the Islands , the only problem was how to fund it , and how to estimate accurate costs . Mr Robertson estimated that there were between 5000-9500 adult females on Lewis and Harris , with an estimated 40% turnover each year , with density depending on successful trapping . He estimated it took 188 trap nights trapping to catch a single female on Lewis and Harris this would increase to 600 trap nights as numbers decreased . They also had to take into account the changes in behaviour and trap shyness which could affect this estimate . On North Uist with estimated numbers of between 180-325 adult females it would take up to 600 trap nights per adult female , therefore 6 trappers would be required working all year round in order to eradicate the mink in an estimated 2.5 - 6 years IF there were only 180-325 adult females. Statistics revealed that out of 7,208 trap nights the total mink yielded was 42 , plus 113 ferrets , since July 1999 , averaging 238.3 nights per mink and 61.4 nights per ferret .Trapped mink would then be dispatched using either an airgun , .410 or a 9 mm shotgun , although shooting through the head with a powerful airgun was recommended .
These findings by CSL have been submitted to Europe for funding , with the application based on live trapping , (complete eradication). Moneys asked for is 2.7m Euros - (1.6-1.7m to cover North Uist ). This would be a 5 year project employing 11 people , 6 trappers (paying each trapper 12K pa ) and 1 foreman trapper on the Uists split into 2 teams of 3 , covering 6 regions and 3 trappers plus a foreman on Harris (creating the corridor) , both groups would report directly to a project manger . Their approach would be , live cage trapping all year round , boats to cover off shore Islands and mobile trapping teams . It was suggested that each trapper needed 200 traps in order to be efficient , whilst at the moment only 25-50 were available to each man . Live traps were at the moment being set over 3 separate routes on a rota basis .
When questioned about the possibility of securing European funding CSL would only give their chances of success around 33-50% .
SNH were asked why the funding covered only mink when the Uists also had a problem with hedgehogs , feral cats and wild ferret's , they stated that although the ferret's did cause damage they didn't have the same killing instincts as mink , and that the hedgehogs were being dealt with under a separate issue and at this moment a feasibility study of how to deal with the problem was ongoing (wonder how much that's going to cost ?) .

I have deliberately left out my feelings and personal views from this meeting and invite your comments...............

Update 2004, the cost of each mink caught has been in the region of 3,500 per animal, this has caused the project to attract much negative media attention, something SNH would rather avoid.Despite occasional updates via newletters, which can be requested by contacting the Western Isles branch of SNH, SNH still attempt to justify the expense. Dogs - which in the year 2000 were suggested, are now used, they have proved an asset, although the use of correct dogs bred for such tracking and marking abilities would have proved a far better financial investment, giving the project a much better result.
Money for this adventurous 'eradication' project is due to run out soon, which will leave the remainder of the mink to re populate the areas which have caused concern, bringing the scheme back to square one within a relatively short period of time.
Scientists no doubt have a valuable part to play, but real experience and knowledge on a subject such as mink, cant be overlooked - or rather shouldnt have. Political correctness is one thing, but in our opinions the whole project, though admittedly creating jobs for 5 years has achieved nothing.
European funding will not be available for extending the project.

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44229
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 04 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Legion wrote:
You see the mink come over from Lewis and Harris, swimming up to 5 miles


Bloody hell

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