Wednesday 6 May 2015

American Mink

Poor Squawk, badly bitten, bruised and swollen on the right
side of her face, her right eye swollen shut tight. 
A bit more excitement than anybody needs in the middle of the night came our way in the wee small hours of this morning, when a mink got into our chicken house and almost did for our elderly Cuckoo Marans hen "Squawk". Fortunately for us and Squawk, it was a warm night so we slept with the back window of the bedroom slightly open and the dogs, sleeping on our bed, never quite turn off the alertness and the keen hearing for unusual noises. And don't let you slumber on if they KNOW there is something out there.

The patient is in the 'hospital wing' seeming to be unaffected
other than the right side of her face. 
It was 01:30 or there abouts when the shout went up. We'd been woken by an unusual bird-shout from the hen house but, as you do, we were still trying to convince ourselves that we hadn't really heard it, or it was just the geese making love and it was warm under the duvet and raining outside. But the dogs were having none of this and bounced across us to get to the window sill where we could quickly tell this wasn't the normal cacophony of mad barking but an intense curiosity and investigation. They were silent except for the noise of Towser trying to hoover up all the air from the yard into his nose pressed against the window gap, we guess to get the scent of something new.

Escape route. I have never seen an animal
do an 8 foot vertical up concrete before. 
In seconds we were awake and sure I needed to go investigate so dressing gown and wellies on, head torch and out turning on yard lights and so on in case it might be a human intruder. I arrived to find a mink with the Marans hen's face in its mouth held down on the ground, half under the row of nest boxes. I tried to get a foot in there to stomp on the mink, but it let go the bird (who ran off) and shot up behind the nest boxes. Liz arrived at that stage and I called out that we had the mink and could she bring a dog. Deefer was quickly on the scene and when I lifted out the boxes, she chased the mink down under the hutches you can see in the pic. He was safe for the moment.

Escape holes under the tin roof. 
We rescued the poor hen and put her up in the hutches, then called in the other two dogs. They were delighted to suddenly have something they were allowed to try to catch and kill. I also grabbed a screw driver to whizz off the white panels blocking the hole where the mink was now hiding, to let Deefer get in there. We know the chase went down to the left hand end and back, because the back end of the mink suddenly appeared at a gap and Towser and Poppea almost snatched it but the mink had now had enough. He shot back along the 'tunnel' past Deefer and then took off vertically up the concrete block wall and Liz caught sight of his vanishing bum disappearing at roof level through a hole under the corrugated sheeting.

Mink Trap.
He was gone. We were just left to round up dogs and take them for a patrol round the buildings inside and out, calm down the chickens, rue the many gaps and holes in these old buildings many of which are easy pop-holes for an American Mink, no bigger than a stretched out rat. I will attack those tomorrow. Also, as we have a mink trap since about 3 weeks ago and, in the bin, a ripening bag of prawn heads - perfect mink-bait, apparently. We set the trap and decided it had all gone quiet and the scent cooling, headed back indoors for a middle of the night coffee. We knew that if our mink came back, then the dogs would surely alert us to him again.

Come and get these lovely prawn bits, Mr Mink. What could
POSSIBLY go wrong?
That's it, this time - that's all she wrote so far. The chicken survived the night and is now in the hospital wing trying to get some rest despite the constant cheeping of baby Hubbards. She seems fine apart from the right side of her face which is badly swollen. These are the invasive non-native minks, the 'American' Mink (Mustela vison) which are escapes or releases from fur-farms. We do not seem to do the European Mink (Lutreola lutreola) in these parts (in Ireland at all). They are not "evil bastards", they are just very efficient predators, plonked down in a 'foreign' environment, just trying to make a living like the rest of us. It just seems unreasonably wicked that they do not kill our chickens quickly and cleanly, like the bone-crunching snap of a fox's jaws, but instead they grab the head-end somewhere and chew through enough skin and flesh to get blood flowing, which they can then lap up. Their mouth and teeth are similar to those of a cat, with the carnivore 'fangs' (canines) and the secateur-like premolar and molar cutting teeth (carnassials) so the internal injuries from the first grab alone must be horrendous. The bird must die slowly and in great pain and all the other birds just have to watch and wait their turn. Our friend Charlotte has recently had all her ducks killed, maimed or traumatised like this to the degree where the most merciful thing was to despatch the traumatised and badly chewed survivors. If this lad returns and gets himself caught in our trap then I'll have no more problem finishing him off than I did with the foxes. We hope this is a roving young animal who is now so scared of 'us' that he won't try it again. Stay away Mr Mink.


Anne Wilson said...

I do hope Mrs Squawk survives OK. We find lavender oil is great for stopping secondary infections setting in.

Matt Care said...

Thanks for that. We are quite worried that there might be deep and dirty wounds, possibly even to the actual eye-ball. She is still with us anyway (and even laid an egg in 'hospital')so today we let her out again to be with the gang. They all accepted her as if nothing had happened and nobody tried to peck at the dried blood. We'll just keep an eye and maybe the swelling will go down and the eye re-open.