Feisty otters fight back against foreign invaders

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BRAVE Lothian otters are standing their ground against the American mink. Experts believe otters’ determination to protect their habitat is stopping the spread of the mink through Scotland.

A documented case has emerged of an otter tearing an encroaching mink to pieces.

Mink were introduced from the US to Scotland in the 1950s to breed for their fur. But enough escaped for the species to take hold in the wild.

An estimated 20,000 mink are roaming free and have been blamed for disrupting eco-systems.

But it seems the mink has met its match in the native Scottish otter. Fen Howieson, a bailiff with the Forth Fisheries Trust, said he witnessed a fight to the death in the River Almond, West Lothian.

He said: “I saw the two animals approaching each other. They growled at each other and the mink refused to back down.

“The otter tore it to shreds,” said Mr Howieson.

But Professor of Ecology at Aberdeen University, Xavier Lambin, said it was unlikely otters would win a final victory. “It would be a happy ending if the rise of the native otter would lead to the demise of the mink,” he said. “But it’s not like that.”