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The North American mink is unfortunately becoming a common sight along the Water of Leith. In the past few weeks we have had 5 sightings of this unwelcome visitor. With so many birds beginning to hatch chicks I am sad to say it is a boom time for this ferret like mammal. One alarming report from Stockbridge suggested that a family or group of 5 mink were out hunting together!.

Sadly there is very little we can do to halt the action of mink or remove them from our river. Trapping and shooting is a costly and tricky activity in urban areas particularly as children may find the traps or domestic cats may enter by mistake. We do however keep an eye on their activity so do report any sightings to us - date, time of day, exact location and if possible grid refernce.

One of the most frequent questions we get asked is about the difference between otters and mink

Mink -  generally have a long slim body covered in glossy, thick dark brown fur with a white patch under the chin, however they can appear grey or black. Adults are between 20 and 24 inched long and they have short legs with partially webbed feet, which make them excellent swimmers. They can be found in wooded areas and fields near streams and lakes. They do not dig burrows, but instead take over dens abandoned by other animals. They will hunt day or night. So if you see a mammal out during the day dark chocolate in colour and smaller than a cat chances are its a mink. See the following link for more info:

 Otters - are generally larger and nearly always much more elusive prefering to live alone and hunt at dusk and dawn. More of a milk chocolate colour with a paler underside they have large webbed feet and a thick powerful rudder like tail. They are fairly large up to a meter in length, so are more like the size of a dog. They dig their own homes call holts and feed more or less exclusively on fish. Otters are spotted fairly frequently on the river often by fishermen.

This is a picture of the Water of Leith otter taken in 2008 by Gerry


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Reader Comments (16)

I have just seen two youngish mink under the Telford Bridge, near Dean Village. Disappointed to see they fit the description for mink rather than otters!

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudith Lewis

walking across the bridge near b&q at warriston my wife and i spotted a mink swimming in and out of the reeds at the side of the riverbank. a fasinating sight ....

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterg finlayson

Mink seen swimming back and forwards across Waters of Leith on nothwest side of the Den Village bridge at midday on 10 Nov 2009

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred Bridgland

A mink climbed out of the Water of Leith in front of me today as I crossed the pedestrian bridge at Bell's Mills (South of Belford Road). It sat on a branch growing out of the side of the old stone wall on the north side, and I watched it for a few minutes. It was wet and so looked jet black, about 18" long. I realise now that it was a mink.

A couple of years ago I also saw an otter at the weir near the Dean Gallery . It was very close by, right at the water's edge and it looked round when we appeared. It didn't seem shy and was also much bigger, we thought it was a dog in for a swim at first.

November 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteven Fraser

My dogs spotted a mink on the opposite bank from the footpath, accessed by the stairs from Stockbridge. It appeared to be black and probably around 20" in length.

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

I saw a mink on saturday, running along the footpath at the shore on the water of Leith. It was broad daylight
in the open and was being chased by a little boy! a strange sight.

March 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternikki

Mink active on the stretch around Bell's Mills, from Belford Bridge to the Art Gallery weir crossing, bad news for ducks & other water wildlife in the vicinity.

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMick

Saw a mink and could hear others in a bush beside the river just up from the weir at dean village towards belford where there is a bench.

March 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterL

I am certain I saw a mink yesterday on the dock at Rennies Isle. We have gold finches there so I just hope they aren't attacked

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdmin

Just to the west of Dean Village at lunchtime today caught sight of this fella:

Not really happy about seeing him - okay so they're lovely looking animals, but knowing the damage they can cause to the native wildlife isn't terribly pleasant.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnth

Saw about five mink in the Belford area today at around 4pm. Spotted them in the water at first and thought they might be otters but when seen on land they unfortunately matched the description of mink above.

28 July 2010

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

We spotted what we were pretty sure was a young mink and a parent at Malleny near Rugby Ground about 12.30 we actually watched the young one for about 5 minutes and it was a great swimmer and indeed caught a small fish, before parent arrived, looked more ferret like to me and am pretty sure they were not otters.

August 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColin Sime

A couple of days ago, I saw a pair of mink on the bank opposite the footpath, just below the bridge at Stockbridge. They were chasing a small rabbit up and down the bank. (I have never seen a rabbit before along the Water of Leith and can't imagine how it got there, with the walls on both sides of the river.) I don't know the outcome, but I fear the worst.


October 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Spotted a mink running up and down on a verge just beneath the footpath below the Falshaw Bridge at Stockbridge. Thought I was seeing an otter at first, but having come home and investigated, it was definitely a mink. Bizarre to see such a thing in the wild, running around in the open, not 15 minutes from Princes Street.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIlan

Spotted a mink where the water of leith turns away from the cycle path near Connaught Place today. He came over the weir and down the embankment, followed him down the river a bit heading towards Leith.


March 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

7pm: 19.May 2011, just spotted a mink in the water of leith, near pizza express at stockbridge. thought it was a baby otter at first, but got a good long look.

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkw burns

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