By Larry Thompson
The following article is written to provide information on a devastating
event to our Koi pond. However, I would like to state up front that we are
not experts or knowledgeable on MINK, but are simply documenting the
painful series of events.
A few weeks ago I was merrily beginning to change the Koi pond water and filters
when I looked at the fish and to my dismay they were all chewed up, bloody and
stressed. The worst ones were the larger Becco and Chagoi. Something had chewed
the dorsal fins, swimming fins and tails. Scales were missing and my beautiful yellow
Yamabuki’s mouth was almost chewed off! I immediately started calling whatever it
was, everything bad word I could think of and to say I was angry would not begin
describe my temperament. I didn’t have a clue what it was at first, but it didn’t take
me long to figure out it was a Mink, Weasel or River Otter. All of the Water Celery,
thriving under the Greenhouse, was beaten down where the creature was running
around the inside of the pond. Later, I figured out it was probably trying to catch the
bullfrogs which come out of hibernation to sun themselves on warm sunny days.
I immediately called Jackie Alsup and asked for advice. The first challenge was to
figure out how to catch the ones which were wounded the worst as the pond is covered
with the Greenhouse and access is limited to one end. As it turned out, two of
the three worst injured were very tame and with Greg Bickal and Jackie’s assistance,
we were able to catch them when they came up to the feeding ring looking for there
favorite treat, Mandafu. We later figured out they were attacked first because they
were the slowest swimmers and easiest prey. I pumped the cold water from the
pond into a 100 gallon tub inside the house in the fish room, aerated it heavily and
waited for the water to warm up to room temperature, which took about 24 hours.
Tom at Koi Care Kennel says warm water is clea rly the absolute best remedy for an
injured Koi. Jackie came over the next day with her Koi medical kit and treated the
extensive wounds as best she could. We then placed both 12-15 pound Koi into the
300 gallon tub which is heavily aerated and filtered with large sponge filters for biofiltration
and a canister filter to reduce the waste. Given the bio-load in the tub, the
water is changed very frequently with aged well water which has been adjusted to
All went well until the Becco’s sore got worse and Jackie was again gracious enough to come to the rescue and assist me in administering a shot of broad spectrum antibiotic. The other pond fish are really beat up but all are surviving to date. No doubt we will have some casualties between now and springtime. All of these efforts just come under the heading of “doing the best we can under the circumstances”, knowing we may have further losses. But if we do, it will not be because we haven’t done everything possible we could do which includes water changes, high O2 and monitoring water quality.
On December 18, a four and a half pound Buck Mink was finally caught in a Conibear trap and that story is described below.
The toll thus far (unless another Mink shows up):
-Every Koi damaged.
-Three or Four dragged off into the woods and devoured, including a perfectly marked three step Kohaku which was developing into a very nice fish.
-Two large Koi are still in the fish room quarantine tank being cared for with a lot of TLC.
-The damaged Koi in the pond are really banged up and undoubtedly some will not make it.
HOW WE CAUGHT THE MINK
I initially went to the internet in search of information and became rather discouraged when I read descriptive words and comments such as the following:
Amazing Predators; Scourge of the Countryside; clever; impossible to catch; they run at high speed, leap, climb trees and eat birds; outstanding swimmers under water; crawl under burrows; get into pheasant and chicken houses and kill and maim; love garden ponds and take delight in wounding the fish; crawl into roof spaces in houses; thrive n most habitats; love to kill prey which cannot escape a pen or pond; they are clearly out of balance in some environments and are compared to a wolf in a nursery in some locations as they also eat ducks, coots, crayfish, rabbits, rats, pheasants, quail and small mammals.
Catching our Mink took about three weeks of “team effort” and most of that time he clearly outsmarted
our efforts. Many, many thanks to friends who had “Mink knowledge” and shared it with us and these folks
included Harry Alsup, Steve Wright, Brother Scott, Donavan Burke and neighbor Kevin Bjorsen. Kevin
brought and set ten traps and made many trips to assist our efforts. Steve provided a Conibear which was
inserted into a custom made wooden box and placed next to the pond with the logic being Mink love to
crawl through small spaces and would crawl through the box and into the waiting Conibear trap. Donovan
suggested “Tanglefoot” (Mouse sticky on steroids) which may have a future prevention application.
The next attempt involved the use of three Live Traps baited with sardines. It was very successful in catching neighborhood cats, which were immediately turned loose. We had been taking great pains to hide the Conibears so we wouldn’t hurt any of the neighbor’s pets and that was successful, thank goodness. One little starving Kitten kept getting caught in the live trap and eating the sardines and so I “temporarily” put him in the filter shed. The shed has a heater keeping the filters and pipes from freezing as the Koi pond filtration is still running.
The next attempt involved tracking the predator in the snow by his footprints and blood when he would
drag a Koi out of the pond and into a large brush pile down in the woods below the house. At this point I called neighbor Kevin Bjorsen and he set three more Conibears around the wood pile where it appeared he was entering the pond in a small gap. Still no luck and still the Koi were being attacked. Another failed method was to put spotlights around the pond as we had it lit up like a Christmas tree, but he still attacked during the night. I then discovered he was attacking even during the daytime as Erma saw him run across the Greenhouse top at 11:00AM. “Nocturnal creatures” huh, yeah right, but not when they have a taste for bullfrogs in some nice warm water! At this time I remember making a comment in another article about the benefits of the greenhouse in the wintertime and the resulting protection from predators. It protects the Koi nicely from Raccoon’s, herons and other predators, but not Mr. Mink!
The next series of attempts tested our egos. How was this creature consistently outsmarting us and all of the traps? Next up was more traps (Conibear, Live Traps and Leg Holds), a total of thirteen altogether, placed all around the area and attempting to “funnel” him into the traps. They were placed on the inside and outside of the greenhouse, since he was a creature of habit most of the time, coming up from the woods on the same trail. My brother Scott was also doing research to try to help us and got a tip from a Koi farmer friend who had hired Stauffer to prevent and deal with predators attacking his livelihood. The tip: Mink have a weakness for EGGS, more so than any other attractant or “bait”. So, we coated the traps with raw scrambled egg for an attractant and put some in each live trap too. At last, the collective effort paid off as we caught the RAT FINK %^$*#@* in a Conibear that Kevin had set and placed in a location where he was leaving the greenhouse through a hole in a concrete block. We had set it there on one of his runs by tracking him in the snow and when he squeezed through the openings, he would pack down the snow because his belly was wet, giving us the clue.
How much more work, worry and effort this disaster will be is anyone’s guess at this point. It will be a miracle if more problems don’t show up on the damaged Koi still in the pond. Thanks to Jackie Alsup for all of her expertise, efforts and advice and listening to my whining.
LONG TERM YEAR ROUND SOLUTION?
Long term, the Mink threat could possibly continue year round due to our proximity to several very large ponds all around us and Indian Creek just a mile away. Internet information says Mink establish territories and roam a mile or more looking for food. If they attack in the summer, it will present big problems as we won’t be able to set traps around the pond in the summer time, as the greenhouse will be removed and the pond open to one and all. For a long term year round solution, based upon the information and pictures found on the internet, my son-in-law Jeff Wright made us the “floating mink trap” shown in the picture. It seems like it should be successful and could float in the pond, contain an enticing box and an opening for the Mink to explore which will contain “kill traps” without endangering area wildlife or Felines on dry land.
The only solution appears to be to KILL IT, as prevention is difficult, if not totally impossible. Live traps may work, but Mink are extremely clever and you would have to be extremely lucky. Ours were placed right in his “runs” from the woods to the pond and he would go right around it, passing up the tasty sardines used for bait.
Oh yes, back to the title of this article regarding acquiring a Kitten. We now have a Kitten who we named “LUCKY” who has adopted us. He was very lucky to keep getting caught in the live trap and not starve to death and we feel lucky to have this addition to our household.
Click to see pictures.