Mink hunting has a lineage that dates to the 19th century. Back then it was otters being hunted, not minks. 

Otter hunting with hounds was a popular pastime for a certain minority up until the 1970s, even while otter numbers were in sharp decline. By the time they became protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, in large thanks to campaigning groups like the League Against Cruel Sports, otters were sadly only found in small pockets of the UK.  

The hunts stopped hunting otters switching to the American mink instead. Having been farmed intensively in the UK for their fur, some American minks inevitably escaped and rapidly established themselves along the waterways in the UK with no competition from otters. 

It became a devastating reality that by hunting minks instead of otters, practitioners of the cruel sport could continue their blood lust through the summer months. 

These groups do not like company, either packing up or becoming aggressive once hunt monitors turn up. Our professional investigators have been threatened by them many times. For example, back in the 1990s, one of them was struck on the head by an otter pole wielded by an infamous lady hunt master from Dorset; all for getting too close to the group. 

Mink hunting with dogs was banned under the Hunting Act 2004, however mink hunts continue to this day under the guise of hunting rats, since that pastime, while cruel, is not illegal. The hunters make this claim despite the fact their hunt badges still have a picture of a mink on them, not a rat.  

Up to 20 minkhound packs are out once or twice a week during the summer months, using the same tactics, the same hunt uniforms, and the same hounds as when they hunted otters and minks. But now they claim to be hunting rats. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is no coincidence that hunt meets are often along waterways near to game fisheries where otters and minks are often considered vermin. 

Right now, the mink hunts are now about two months into their 2021 season. They will hunt right up to October. 

The League is keen to build up a better picture of mink hunting in the UK and are asking for your help. If we are to deploy our professional investigators to film this illegal sport and catch the perpetrators, we need more information. That means we all need to be on the lookout for this cruel and illegal practice. 

Here are the top five signs that mink hunting may be happening near you: 


1. People wearing strange and colourful uniforms, and wielding long sticks 

This is a matter of tradition more than practicality. The long history of mink hunting has allowed its practitioners’ uniforms to develop over time. Now, hunters may commonly be seen wearing blue jackets and trousers with red ties, lapels, and socks. 

The long sticks in their hands have a grimmer ‘practical’ purpose. Minks often attempt to escape hounds by climbing trees. Hunters use telescopic poles to knock the animals down, into the reach of the hounds.  


2. People climbing trees 

Like the above scenario, this is a means of retrieving minks from trees. Even as the poor animals flee to the higher branches to escape the snapping jaws of hounds, they are still not safe. Hunters pursue them, tearing them from their position of safety. 


3. Terriers and people digging on the edge of a riverbank 

Minks can escape from hounds by hiding in small holes along the bank of the river. But hunters use shovels and terrier dogs to flush them out. 


4. A huntsman using a hunting horn to control the hounds  

If you are walking by a riverbank and hear the sound of a horn, it is always worth further investigation. Managing so many dogs is easier with a horn and is a tell-tale sign that hunting may be taking place nearby. 

5. A handler with a bird of prey 

You may not find birds of prey at every mink hunt, but when they are present they are an integral part of the cruelty that takes place. Hunters use trained birds of prey to seek out minks by the riverbank. 

Mink hunting with hounds is cruel, illegal, disturbs otters, is very damaging to the river ecosystem and could be happening in a waterway near you. 

If you have any reason to believe that mink hunting may be happening close by, please contact Animal Crimewatch. Every report brings us closer to catching the perpetrators and ending this cruel sport for good: 


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