The Scottish Hebrides lie off Scotland's west coast. These islands have been inhabited since the Mesolithic period, 8,600 years ago and in many instances the origin of their names has literally been lost in the mists of time.
Lewis and Harris is the largest Scottish island and third largest in the British Isles. Its two names refer to two halves of the island. Lewis in the north is flatter and lower and Harris in the south varies from hilly to mountainous. Today 21,000 people live on the island including 8,000 in Stornoway. The island's economy was traditionally dominated by crofting and fishing but now tourism, fish-farming and renewable energy also contribute. Harris is the home of world famous Harris tweed.
The island is virtually treeless with expansive areas of blanket peat bogs and exposed rock. It is home to nationally important breeding populations of waders, including redshank, dunlin, lapwing and ringed plover and provides habitat for corncrake, hen harrier, golden eagle and otter.
Initially live trapping
Between 2001 and 2006, American Mink were removed from the Uists. Trapping on Harris formed a buffer to prevent mink recolonising these islands.
From 2006 to 2013 mink trapping focused on Lewis and Harris. A team of 12 full time professional trappers maintained a massive network of live traps across the island and checked them daily.
As the mink population decreased, mink monitoring had to ramp up to ensure areas cleared of mink were not recolonised. Initially footprint recorders were used but now kill traps are used both to monitor the population and remove the last few animals remaining.
In 2016 just seven mink were trapped on Lewis and Harris, including a non-breeding female. No juvenile animals have been caught since 2015.
As a result of the near complete eradication of American Mink from Lewis and Harris, Scottish Natural Heritage report the number and distribution of tern colonies continues to grow and successful breeding is occurring in many small tern colonies.
Indications are that birds such as divers, waterfowl and waders have also increased, crofters can again keep domestic poultry and mink impacts on farmed and wild fish stocks have been removed.