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Photo by Mel Hunt

American Mink on the Genesee River

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All my fellow river rats can agree that neovision vision(what a great scientific name) populations have become noticeably larger this century. The American Mink has become a common sight along the mighty Genesee in Wellsville.

These seemingly cute, nearly a wild twin of the domestic ferret, are effective predators and survivors. After mass trapping nearly emptied the population, mink farming became a profitable industry, popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Ironically, mink farms in Europe have fallen under intense scrutiny over that species ability to spread zoonotic disease like Covid 19. In Denmark alone, 17 millions mink were destroyed as a preventative measure. Fur farms all over the world are being shuttered to avoid being the source of the next mutated virus.

The wild American mink poses no such threat, at least in terms of zoonotic disease transmission. But if you are a poultry farm, they are a significant and growing threat. Mink are instinctually programmed to kill and collect prey as a means of food security. It can often lead to entire henhouses being destroyed overnight and a two pound mink can kill a twenty pound swan.

In Ireland, Scotland, and most of the British Isles, mink escaped from farms have reproduced and pose a existential threat to many seabirds. As an invasive species, mink are creating a crisis that was ironically started by the animal rights activists who freed the animals from captivity. Britain banned mink farming in 2003 but the damage had been done.

In Wellsville our native mink who rely on river shellfish, waterfowl, and fish are doing very well. Particularly well it seems since the British Petroleum did major mitigation work on the old Sinclair refinery site. Me and my weaselly pal estimate over a dozen pairs living between Island Park and Jack Bridge Road(Stanndards).

If you are walking the WAG trail or doing some early trout fishing keep your eyes on the river bank for a flash of brown!

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