Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Mating of Minks - Lost in the Blink of an Eye.

The mating of minks is said to be the "fastest" in the animal kingdom,but I've heard murmurs among the matrons of Shawbost. When the season is right,the designated male has his box attached to the far end of her cage(the mating hasn't started yet - although the wording might suggest it). The metal doors on each cage are simultaneously opened, and the big male gets the first look at his "brammer". In a few seconds,it appears that a maelstrom has inhabited the cage. There is a chase in progress,covering every inch of the cage,including the "roof", but to us all,it is a blur. Somewhere, and at a time known only to the minks(of course),union occurs and the male instantly high-tails it to the safety of his home,thereby avoiding a severe mauling from his "girl friend". "Ruith na oidhche" was a bit like that, if the father got a hold of you. If the mating went to plan,one could expect between 6 and 8 kittens. In theory,two amorous mink could return 3 or 4 times their own number. In practice,survival rates were nowhere near such ratios. Selective breeding gave rise to many different colours and hues of mink offspring. I used to know many of the colours'names,but only "sapphire" and "breath of spring" come to mind now. The mink were "humanely" killed using a special box and carbon monoxide from the car's exhaust. No physical means of killing could be used,as this would damage the mink's pelt and render it useless for sale. All of this took place(thankfully)when I was not in Dalmore,but Seoras told me how difficult it was to remove the mink pelt in exactly the way that was prescribed by those in London, who graded and valued them. I remember that a pelt on average would fetch about £12(a fair sum in 1956). The pelting and the curing of pelts required a lot of skill,infinite care and a lot of experience. If you got it wrong,you stood to lose a lot of money. So,no matter how well you cared for your mink when alive,it was the colour and quality of the dead mink's pelt that determined success or failure in this endeavour. I remember George saying that ,all things being equal,he would need about 500 mink for a viable farm,and that alone would take a lot of money.
A wild mink, after a kill,prefers to eat the internal organs of its prey ie.its heart,liver,kidneys etc. It rarely bothers to eat flesh. I remember once (the only time I can recall) a male mink escaped from its cage in Dalmore,unbeknown to us. Within a short time(perhaps 1 or 2 hours),an irate crofter arrived from Garenin(which is about 2 miles across the moor), to tell us that the black(****)mink had slaughtered over 20 of his hens, before he realised a carnage was taking place in his hen-run. The mink had only eaten the offal of a few hens - the remainder he killed "for sport". This cost Seoras quite a bit,and I don't recall what happened to the mink.

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