Sunday, 26 February 2012

Meet "Mork" the Mink

At the end of last year you may remember that sadly our elderly male mink passed away. This left our enclosure empty, but we soon were able to offer it to a female mink who had been caught by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. We named her "Mindy"

In the mean time we put the word out for if ever a male mink was available, to offer him a permanent home here too. Earlier this year we received a young male. After a short spell in quarantine, and having him castrated to prevent any breeding, we have now introduced him to Mindy and his new home.

We decided to call him "Mork", and you can see how well he has settled down from the picture above! He has become very friendly in a short period of time, and is now regularly out and about and curious to see what is going on.

Below you can see Tom moving him in to his new enclosure...

American Mink are an introduced species to the UK, first coming over in 1929 for use in the fur-farms. Right from the start there were probable escapees, and certain deliberate releases which followed meant that by as early as the 1950's they were breeding in the UK.

This led to devastation in much of our native wildlife, as the mink ran riot and preyed on many vulnerable species... most famously our water voles which remain one of our fastest declining mammals in this country.

A solitary animal, you normally find that the males have larger ranges which overlap several female territories for the breeding season. They can be active anytime of day, but are most often spotted out at dusk or through the night.

Being a semi-aquatic mammal they do spend a fair amount of time around the water, and their diet will consist of water life, birds, smaller mammals up to the size of a rabbit and sometimes even invertebrates.

They have bad reputation for being a vicious killer for fun and having a mean screechy attitude, where in reality, their ear piercing call is a defense for when startled or in fear. They will often go on a "killing spree" taking as much as they can in a short period of time, but they are just making the most of the resources available.

Although the mink has spread over a lot of the country now, and seems to be thriving in many areas, there is evidence that in some places they are in a decline. This seems to have a possible link with the natural spread and increase of European otters back into some of our habitats

I feel it important that we remember it is not the mink that brought itself over, and we humans created the damage which they now cause by first bringing them here and then in some cases releasing them into the wild. The mink themselves are just making opportunity out of our habitats, and surviving as best they can.

In certain areas of America, the mink is considered a fantastic pet, and are bred in many different colours much like they used to be. Only this time not to be turned into fur coats, but to be collected as rarer pets to show and care for.

I agree with many that the mink should not be wild in this country, and that it does cause much devastation, but I can also admire it as a species trying to survive.

For those of you that have a disliking towards the American mink, perhaps just maybe "Mork" will go some way to show you how pleasant they can be when they are not where they shouldn't be. Mork is full of character, and by spending just a few minutes watching him you will see how playful and superbly adapted he is to their lifestyle and how beautiful their fur coat really is.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Nocturnal House Update

It is official, our new exhibit for 2012 will be called the "Nocturnal House." Work has been going at a pace to try and get it ready for the Easter school break, and I thought you may like to see some pictures of how it is developing.

 The site of the Nocturnal House is situated at the back of our Lecture Theatre, and has previously only ever been used as a space to store things. First job was to clear it all out and see what was left.

Once the layout had been designed, it didn't take long for our maintenance team to get all the stud work in place and you could really begin to get a feel for how it was going to work out.

 It wasn't just the inside that needed work, we had to create new access points for the public and keepers to see the new enclosures when finally opened.

Boarding and ceiling went up to give the enclosed feel, and enclosure sizes were worked out and put in place.

 A lick of paint before wiring to prevent the animals gnawing out of their new homes.

And how the outside currently looks. Of course, much more is still to do. Glass needs to be put in place, exhibits need to be designed and fitted out, lighting needs to be put in place as well as signage... but hopefully all will be ready for the opening later next month.

All the keepers have been on Bat Care courses to be able to correctly look after these specialised animals, licences to allow us to keep them are currently being applied for, and we already have a few bats lined up to put on display.

Edible dormice, or Glis glis, have been at the centre for a while now and I am sure they will appreciate a change of scenary when they enter their new home and we are hopeful of some educational Common Dormice, which can not be released to the wild, to find a permanent home here.

We have a lovely family of hedgehogs which have been housed off display for a few years now which will make home in the new hedgehog enclosure.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Open for Half Term

The big freeze here continues, with temperatures this early morning on getting out to tend the animals reaching only -14C.

If you can brace the cold weather, we are now open for half term... Saturday 11th of Feb all the way through to Sunday the 19th of Feb.

If it is too cold for you today, then the forecast looks promising for it to warm up through next week, but do try and get here before the ice melts as the otters are so much fun to watch in this cold weather!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

BWC Big Freeze

As the snow is melting quickly, the cold nights remain and keep the ice around. No where more is it obvious than on our otter ponds. If you have ever been lucky enough to be at the Centre when our ponds are frozen over, you will know our otters love the ice! They play on it, under it and through it.

With the cold weather set to last into the next week, you may get to see their icy antics over the early part of half-term next week.

Monday, 6 February 2012

BWC under snow

I hinted at some snow photos yesterday, but unfortunately had little time to take any. After setting up for the day we soon realised there had been quite a bit of snow damage to some of the enclosures. That left just 2 of us to not only look after and feed all the animals, but also make the essential repairs to prevent any escapees!...

Nearing the end of the day, light fading, I managed to get 15 minutes... Since our foxes are currently shut in I spent my time with the otters.

The squirrel above taken on a quick pass through the enclosure on the way to work.

After today all the repairs have been made. The snow is beautiful to look at and great for some nice photos, but can cause a lot of problems here and makes every little job that much harder.