Pesky Prints?

Muir of Dinnet has excellent habitat for a variety of mammals.  Species present on the reserve include otters, red squirrels, pine marten and roe deer.  However, recently we appear to have had a spate of mystery guests.

As part of ongoing monitoring work we have five mink rafts placed round the lochs and water ways on the reserve. If you have never seen or head of one of these before an example is given in the pictures below.  They float at the waters edge and hold a clay basket in a tunnel so if any little critters venture through them, they leave prints and we (in theory!) can identify who has been there.  These rafts can be found all over Scotland and are part of an initiative to eradicate the invasive American mink. For more information about American mink please visit the Scottish mink initiative website. (http://www.scottishmink.org.uk/)

Kinord Mink RaftThe rafts on the reserve are monitored at least every two weeks, with the majority being done on a weekly basis. Up until recently there has been little action to report, bar the odd otter spraint.  However, a couple of weeks ago prints were found on two of the rafts. They are a little difficult to make out but they are possibly mink (Although alternative suggestions are welcome).

Kinord Raft Print

Kinord Raft Print

Kinord mink raft clay basket with prints.

Kinord mink raft clay basket with prints.

Prints on the Mondavan raft.

Prints on the Mondavan raft.

During the same weekend the Logie Burn raft, which is monitored by volunteers Veronica and Irvine also showed up a potentially surprising visitor. As you can see from the photo the prints look tantalizingly like water vole.   Unfortunately water vole prints are notoriously difficult to ID by themselves.  They are very similar to rat prints, so other features such as latrines and burrows are needed to confirm their presence. The search for these signs hasn’t been successful to date, so we aren’t getting our hopes up too high but the thought of water vole on the reserve is quite exciting!

These prints look like a water vole's but they are almost impossible to tell apart from a rat's.  I wonder which it was?   Photo taken by Irvine Ross.

These prints look like a water vole’s but they are almost impossible to tell apart from a rat’s. I wonder which it was? Photo taken by Irvine Ross.

A closer look at the Logie Burn prints.  Photo taken by Irvine Ross.

A closer look at the Logie Burn prints. Photo taken by Irvine Ross.

We have now placed traps in the two rafts with potential mink prints which are checked every 24 hours.  These have been out for a week now and so far nothing has been caught.  This may mean that whoever left the prints was just dispersing through the area and has now moved on, or perhaps mink are a little more wily than we give them credit for!

The Mondavan mink raft with trap inserted into the tunnel.

The Mondavan mink raft with trap inserted into the tunnel.

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