A young mink pushed his luck last week. While chatting to our local National Parks and Wildlife ranger about plans to demolish some fencing, shift young trees, cut back the thatch of overgrown grass and clear excess vegetation from one of the natural springs at Cabragh Wetlands, the mink chose that particular moment to put his head up twenty metres from us.
Boldly announcing his presence and unfazed by the proximity of humans, he took his time to turn away and scurry off down a mink-sized tunnel through the blackberry briars and back into the wetlands. The sight of him was enough to remind us that these mammalian predators are still around in considerable numbers and will be only too happy in the spring to feed on any eggs and young creatures that they come across.
This writer is ambivalent about mink. Of course they are not an Irish species, and can do serious damage to native wildlife. On the other hand the casual use of the term “vermin” to describe them unsettles me. The mink is only here because of a combination of human carelessness, selfishness, greed, ignorance and stupidity. Torn from their natural American homeland through no fault of their own, beyond possession of a beautiful coat, mink were farmed in Europe under conditions that were often remarkably cruel. The campaign against the fur trade and fur farms was driven by common decency and respect for all forms of life, but of course the well-intentioned release of mink onto the wild was a badly thought-out action.
So now the descendants of those freed mink roam our waterways, hunt our lakes and farmland, raid our hen houses and further deplete our dwindling bird populations. They, I suggest, are the entirely innocent party, lost souls in an unfriendly and alien land trying to eke out a living, yet with a natural God-given right to life…just like you, me and every other living being on the planet. I object to the casually dismissive and derogatory “vermin”. This is the language of the holocaust, of hatred and violence. All creation has an equal right to exist, but perhaps the mink’s right to exist should only be exercised in their native American forests, and not in rural Ireland.
Full story in this week’s Tipperary Star.