Origins in Otter Hunting
Mink hunting has its roots in the ancient summer bloodsport of otter hunting. This cruel activity flourished in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, but the hunters had run out of otters to kill by the 1970s. Habitat destruction, hunting, and the use of DDT pesticides had driven the species to the brink of extinction.
Mink Hunting Begins
In 1978 the otter finally gained protected status, despite the best efforts of the hunting lobby. Several otterhound packs folded, but the others suddenly claimed they would hunt the American mink. This species had become well established on Britain’s waterways since escaping from ramshackle fur farms in the 1930s and ‘40s.
Initially, the move to mink hunting was simply a tactic to preserve hunt infrastructure ‘pending a possible resumption of otter hunting’ but the idea caught on, and several new packs were established from scratch. By the 1980s there were about 18 of these hunts operating on Britain’s waterways.
Of course, this improbable overnight conversion to hunting mink foreshadowed the ridiculous claim that hundreds of fox and hare hunts suddenly converted to ‘trail hunting’ following the Hunting Act 2004.
What Happens On A Mink Hunt?
The hounds are taken on foot to a river or stream and encouraged to search the undergrowth for the scent of a mink. When the hounds find a scent, they pursue the mink across land and water. If the mink seeks refuge in a burrow, it will be dug out or bolted by terriers and forced to run on; if it climbs a tree, it will be dislodged by a barrage of rocks from the hunt supporters. This stop-start pattern continues until the exhausted animal is overwhelmed and torn apart by hounds.
Of course, many so-called mink hunts also hunt otters. In 2019, sabs filmed the Culmstock Mink Hounds chasing an otter and were attacked when they bravely intervened to save the animal. Regardless of the quarry, it’s a cruel, sordid business that causes huge damage to sensitive riparian environments.
Riverbank Surveys? Give Us A Break!
Hunting mink or otters with hounds is illegal, but this doesn’t stop them. As with all forms of hunting, the hunters come up with truly ridiculous excuses to provide a smokescreen for their activities. The Hunting Office is currently trying to promote the laughable idea that mink hunts simply conduct “riverbank surveys” on our waterways. Yea, right!
A HSA spokesperson explained:
“Mink hunting gets underway in April. We believe there are now around 10-12 such packs in existence and they rely on absolutely secrecy to conduct their illegal activities. We therefore appeal to our supporters to keep their eyes and ears open this summer for any nugget relating to mink hunting. You shop ‘em, we’ll sab ‘em!”