Fighting the Birds’ Furred Fiend

Snorri Rafnsson with his dogs in Breiðajörður fjord.

Snorri Rafnsson with his dogs in Breiðajörður fjord. Photo/Contributed

Vala Hafstað

“We need to protect nature against minks. We let them into the country, and we must accept responsibility,” mink hunter Snorri Rafnsson, better known as Vargurinn, tells mbl.is. “The situation is dire. What’s gradually happening is that bird species are disappearing. We’re endangering them.”

The mink is an aggressive species, most commonly found along rivers and lakes. It lives on fish, birds and their eggs, as well as mice. It was first brought to Iceland in 1931 for the purpose of fur farming. Not long thereafter, some of the animals escaped into the wild. Since then, hunters have unsuccessfully attempted to rid us of this unwanted guest. The mink multiplies rapidly and is very adaptive. It is commonly caught in traps, sometimes caught by dogs and often shot by hunters.

The dogs help Snorri hunt the minks.

The dogs help Snorri hunt the minks. Photo/Contributed

Snorri notices the effect the mink has had on bird populations. He worries about the decreasing numbers of black guillemot (Cepphus grylle), even though it has been protected from hunters since September 1, 2017. The bird lays eggs in holes where the minks attack.

“The horned (or Slavonian) grebe [Podiceps auritus] is also endangered, and has been for a long time. On top of that, we no longer see water rails [Rallus aquaticus]. Some types of trout in rivers and creeks are no longer found where they used to be caught years back. It’s all the fault of the minks.”

Snorri's dog with its catch.

Snorri's dog with its catch. Photo/Contributed

This is the time of year when birds are nesting and laying eggs. Snorri was on his way to Helgafellseyjar islands in Breiðafjörður fjord, West Iceland, when interviewed by mbl.is. He states the eider ducks stay off the islands, too scared to venture there, because of the mink, which has taken over the islands. “One mink on such an island can do incredible damage,” he laments.

“It’s my passion to rid nature of the mink. There is nothing better I can do. Unfortunately, it is inadequately paid,” he states. Municipalities and the State pay mink hunters ISK 3,000 (USD 25, EUR 22) per animal, but ISK 15,000 (USD 125, EUR 110) for a pregnant female mink. According to Snorri, the amounts haven’t changed since 1993.

Snorri is on Snapchat, under the name Vargurinn.

Snorri is on Snapchat, under the name Vargurinn.

He states that back when the pay was better, many more hunters participated in mink hunting, and more minks were caught.

The main mink hunting season is in April and May, although mink is caught year-round. The average size of a mink litter is seven or eight puppies.

You can see more pictures of Snorri on Snapchat, under the name Vargurinn , and on Instagram

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