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Minks - a threat to farmers in northern Greece

28 April 2014 / 19:04:46  GRReporter
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In its publication "Kathimerini" newspaper raises again the question of the damage caused by thousands of minks released after the intervention of environmental organizations.

"Leave us alone," Yiannis Pagounis, a farmer from Hiliodendro, Kastoria area, who raises fur animals, does not want to talk. Although it has been four years since the violent attack against his farm by the environmental "ALF" organization that released 48,000 minks, he is tired of the frequent "attacks" by the media.

The reason for them is the new series of press releases about the damage caused by minks on the loose, the number of which, after the release of animals from a second farm, this time in Syatista, Kozani, is around 50,000. There has been no official census of the population of animals living in the wild after August 2010 and the local people complain of constant attacks by minks on domestic animals. It is estimated that around 30,000 of the initial 50,000 minks have been captured, 10,000 have been found dead, and 10,000 have fled but nobody knows how many of them have survived. The area where they have spread is not defined either, since the existence of the animals is confirmed only by fragmentary evidence. Moreover, it seems that "runaways", i.e. minks that periodically escape from farms, cause damage too.

Assessment of environmental effects

Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Vice President of the organization for environmental protection in Kastoria, says the effects on the avifauna of the country are apparent.

The number of water birds (such as swans, geese, coots) has significantly decreased. Only 30 of a total 120 nests of swans have remained intact. In addition, the colonies of small cormorants, which are rare in Europe, have significantly shrunk and many birds move to where the water is deeper in order to escape from the bloodthirsty minks. "Unregulated migration of populations may also affect migratory bird refuges," notes Panagiotopoulos.

The mink is an American animal from the mustelidae family. It is up to 70 cm long, its reproduction period is once a year and the female gives birth to between 3 and 8 young minks. It is a dangerous predator as it swims and climbs very well. Its most dangerous feature for the ecosystem, however, is that it stores food, i.e. it kills more animals than it needs. Scientists suspect that minks have expelled from the area not only birds but also otters, which are a rare protected species of mammal in Greece. "The massive release of foreign species in an ecosystem is a criminal offence that can completely destroy a habitat. One of the direct consequences of the emergence of minks is the competition for prey (e.g. fish) that is created in the food chain, which drives away the local species such as otter and weasel," explains Lazaros Georgiadis, a biologist and person in charge of different activities at the environmental "Arktouros" organization.

Possible solution

The most effective solution to the drastic reduction of the population of minks, which has been successfully applied in other countries with similar problems (Denmark, Scotland), is the placement of special metal long and narrow traps that resemble cages, which are not harmful to other animals due to their shape.

According to Savas Kazandzidis, Ph.D. in biology from the Institute for Forest Research at the National Foundation for Agricultural Research, areas with large populations must be randomly selected first, and then subsequently direct actions to catch the animals should be taken if necessary, with the assistance of the European Union.

"Defensivefacilities

After the attacks in 2010 a large number of farmers have started using electric cables and concrete foundations instead of plain wire to fence their farms. Some have even hired security firms for better protection. However, the locals insist that their domestic animals are in danger. Orestis Piperidis, chairman of the community in Pendavriso, which is located just 5 minutes away from Hiliodendro, lost 30 hens and three ducks 40 days ago. Since it is not clear whether the predator that had attacked them was a "runaway" from a nearby farm or a mink on the loose, he suggests that the animals be marked (which the farmers raising animals for fur do not want to do because of the cost) and a compensation fund be established with the profits of those farmers. This will enable the victims of attacks to obtain compensation for the animals they have lost and the public dissatisfaction will subside.

In September 2011, after hearing the complaints of his fellow citizens, deputy governor of Kastoria Dimitris Savopoulos gave away 35 metal traps to the hunting association in Kastoria and Argos Orestiko. The problem started to fade. However, although a significant number of animals were captured (about 300 according to the hunters), no archive of geographic data had been created. While the attacks took place on a daily basis before, their number had fallen and the issue was forgotten. However, it all started again three months ago. "We have no reliable data to indicate the size of the problem and to require its solution. However, since there is actually a number of freely moving minks, which can become a real environmental threat, we have sent to the Green Fund a request to finance research on locating and catching the animals," says Dimitris Savopoulos.

Modernization of mink farms

Today 31 mink farms operate in the Kastoria area the capacity of which is 236,055 adult animals (according to the Agricultural Directorate of the Kastoria area).

Tags: MinksFarmsAnimals with valuable furEnvironmental organizationsDamage
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