While the main action of the hunting season won’t be with us until the grotesque “cubbing” kicks off in the autumn the summer is usually a time for raising funds, relaxing and getting organised for the season to come. Of course if the badger cull does get under way then all the sabs including myself will fully committed to that however in this lull there is still the desire out there amongst those who like to kill wild animals for fun to get some of their kicks in the sunshine.

The Otter was once hunted throughout the UK and this, along with pesticides and the reduction in quality habitat lead to a drastic decline in numbers and it largely disappeared from our inland waterways with only the remote coastal areas of the highlands and islands maintaining a credible population. Luckily for us this elusive mammal has made a remarkable return and it’s now claimed to be in every county in England. This increase has clearly come to the attention of those that once hunted this protected animal and it would seem they’re now, once again on the hit list except of course being a protected species you can’t hunt them. This is where the American Mink comes in.

The American Mink is an invasive species, released into our countryside by both well-meaning but misguided animal rights activists and (in far greater numbers) by the Mink farmers themselves when the fur industry started to collapse in the wake of the public outcry regarding the wearing of animal fur. Our Native Bank Vole has suffered at the hands of this adaptable predator and many wildlife organisations are trying to redress this balance by providing better habitat for the Vole and/or controlling the Mink. However the Mink is now a part of England’s wildlife tapestry and eradicating it will be impossible so it’s time we accepted this and help the suffering native species in non-lethal ways.

So here you have two species which share largely the same habitat, one protected, the other invasive. What are the hunters to do? Let’s just hunt the rivers and call ourselves a Mink hunt, that would appear more justifiable and if we get an Otter by accident then well, that’s just unfortunate. Otter Hounds can now be called Mink Hounds as well just in case anyone asks.

Well, hunting a mammal with a pack of dogs is still illegal regardless of protection status of the species and as I mentioned in my previous blog entry having a pack of large dogs with a full complement of people in daft clothes marauding down a river system during a time when most species are in the full swing of breeding is reckless at best and just downright arrogant and destructive at worst.  This is something that cannot go unchallenged. These hunts are very hard to find, they’re secretive and underground however through hard work some vital intelligence had been gained and so last weekend many sab groups across the country decided on paying these hunts a visit.

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Just in case you wondered where we were.

The newly formed Beds and Bucks Hunt Sabs joined the action and after a reasonable drive north into the midlands we met up with the many other groups to stake out the entrance from where the Dove Valley Mink Hounds were due to leave. I say ‘stake out’ however I think ‘blockade’ would be a more appropriate description. It was fantastic to see so many sabs in one area and we had all the entrances covered, they were going nowhere without us knowing about it. Of course it wasn’t long before the local boys in blue made an appearance but after a brief chat about our intentions they disappeared down the private lane to where the kennels were situated. We made ourselves at home, caught up with old friends from the badger cull and generally relaxed. Other groups were simultaneously hitting other hunts across the country and we were confident of a successful day.

The police returned and claimed the hunt had already left but we knew different so stayed put. The police, to their credit seemed OK and stayed with us but in the background and largely disinterested, only putting out a few caution signs for the traffic. We got a few honks of support from passing motorists and apart from a slightly grumpy house occupant it was a pretty uneventful day. The hunt stayed home, nothing was killed and no environmental damage done. It may not be the most exciting thing to have to write about but our ultimate goal was achieved and we did it by sitting round, chatting and eating crisps.

I can’t really complain about that.

Sab Fest!

Sab Fest!

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