ECOFACT are currently undertaking aquatic ecology and fisheries surveys across the Irish Midlands as part of a number of assessments being undertaken to inform the Ecological Impact Assessments and Natura Impact Statements of proposed wind energy developments. Work we are undertaking at present includes electofishing surveys, biological water quality assessments, freshwater pearl mussel surveys, and white-clawed crayfish surveys. During the work this week, we observed a Mink (non-native American Mink Neovison vison) feeding on White-clawed Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) on the Stradbally River, Vicarstown, Co. Laois.
This mink was recorded hunting and feeding on White-clawed Crayfish in the Stradbally River, below the Vicarstown Aqueduct, within the River Barrow and River Nore Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – a Natura 2000 site designated for the conservation of the Annex II listed White-clawed Crayfish. The mink was totally unafraid to appear in the open and was effectively targeting large, mature crayfish from the Stradbally River; taking four individuals within five minutes.
Commentary on the video is from Eoin McMahon, our own in-house David Attenborough! From the light fur colour and behaviour, this mink did not appear to have naturalised and is considered likely to have been from farmed stock. A large mink farm is located approximately 500m due south of the Stradbally River in the townland of Ballymanus and is one of five farms operational in Ireland at present; with additional farms located in Donegal, Kerry and Sligo.
In addition to incidental escapes from these fur farms, recent release attempts by activists (including attempts at this Co. Laois farm in 2003 and 2008) further exacerbate the significant negative impact of this species on native wildlife. Much attention has been given to the impacts of mink on ground-nesting birds by BirdWatch Ireland; however, the potential for wider effects on protected aquatic fauna also requires further investigation, particularly with regard to impacts on Annex II White-clawed crayfish populations within designated Natura 2000 conservation sites.