Nature Trail

Ducks outfox mink on Lough Conn

Nature, at its toughest, is a game of survival for both the hunter and hunted – something I was reminded of on a recent walk along the shores of Lough Conn when I noticed a mink stalking a duck and drake as the pair swam nearby.

The mink slid into the water and made several attempts to close in on its prey, but the Mallard couple were more than a match for their predator.

The ducks’ apparent calmness in the face of such danger may have seemed a little reckless as the mink came close.

But all the time the ducks stood their ground, it seemed to me, in the knowledge that they could fly off in an instant if their hunter got too close.

On a number of occasions, the mink exited the lake and re-entered the water from different locations to try and blindside his prey.

Thankfully, the mink’s efforts proved fruitless on this occasion.

It was fascinating to watch this animal pursuit and a relief to see the ducks escape. However, as the nesting season progresses, the mink will prove an even bigger threat to the ducks of Lough Conn.

Farmer’s foe

Mink are dark-coloured, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, otters and ferrets which they are sometimes mistaken for.

Mink in Ireland are descended from animals that escaped, or were freed, from fur farms in the 1950s, and have spread along waterways throughout the Irish countryside in the decades since.

The Department of Arts and Heritage estimates the mink population at between 20,500 and 33,500 and there have been numerous calls for a mink bounty to be introduced as they prey on lambs and poultry farms.

I recall seeing a mink’s vicious handiwork many years ago on a poultry farm near Carrick-on-Shannon where over 20 hens were killed by a mink on the rampage.

The farmer could understand the wild animal taking a chicken or two for food, but it was the mink’s orgy of killing for sport that upset the man most.

Mink are extremely vicious when cornered and from my own experience seem to have no fear in approaching humans.

An animal was persistent in approaching me at the lake a few months back despite the stones I threw in his direction.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t wait around to find out the creature’s intentions.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.