MINK are laying waste to bird populations along the River Feale at a frightening rate, but concerned locals aren't taking it lying down and have launched a new trapping campaign to tackle the menace.
Members of the Tidy Towns and Gun Clubs in Listowel this week deployed a number of new traps along the Feale near the town in an effort to halt the alarming rise in the numbers of mink.
Native to America, the mink were brought to Irish fur farms decades ago for their lucrative pelts, but many escaped. Today, they can be found along most waterways in Kerry, but their presence on the Feale is escalating at an alarming rate.
"They are wiping out ducks, pheasants and moorhens," Inland Fisheries Officer and Listowel Gun Club member Paddy Halpin said. "When I was young moorhens were a common sight, but you hardly see any of them today and that's down to the mink. They are a ferocious predator and are particularly of a threat to ground-nesting birds like duck, pheasant and moorhens."
Traps were deployed this week all along the Feale in Listowel. "As an example of how prevalent they are becoming, one man in Ballynoneen, on the way to the Ferry Bridge (in Ballyduff) trapped 13 mink in recent weeks. I know a turkey farmer whose flock was wiped out by them a few years back near town."
Trapping is considered the most humane way of dealing with the mink, allowing people dispatch them quickly with a shot to the head afterwards. However, Mr Halpin has warned against people shooting mink in the wild.
"The problem is that many people might mistake young otters for mink and that's the last thing we want to see. These mink are not native and shouldn't be here predating on our native species, but it seems many escaped from farms in recent decades and were even set free by people who thought they were doing good."
Mary Hanlon of the Listowel Tidy Towns said the group was keen to work with the Gun Club on the problem. The Tidy Towns is behind the wildlife sanctuary project along the Feale banks in Listowel. "We've noticed a massive drop in our duck population recently, with the mink doing for so many of them clearly."