IT may appear cute but some fear this cuddly-looking critter is actually a mink – a “non-native killing machine”.
Staff at ChesterBoat, based at The Groves, spotted the animal in the River Dee on Tuesday (February 19) and crew member James Booker took a few snaps.
They posted the photos on Twitter, saying: “This little fella came to see us this morning. Such a cheeky thing. So much wildlife to see on the River Mink Nature.”
But soon after resident David Sheekey contacted the Standard with a spine-chilling warning.
He said: “Alas mink are not cute creatures but are a non-native killing machine. Their potential to wreak havoc amongst the wildlife and fish population on the river is enormous.
“Cheshire West And Chester Council and the Environment Agency need to act to eradicate this.”
We swiftly contacted both the council and EA, but it seems the jury is still out on whether the cheeky chap is indeed a threat to river wildlife.
A spokesman for the EA said that if it was a mink, any local water vole population could be under threat.
“It is possible that the animal in question could be a mink however, we can’t be 100 per cent certain from this photograph,” she said.
“Mink are classed an invasive non-native species and can be found in most locations across the UK. Invasive species are considered to provide the greatest risk to biodiversity worldwide, and can be introduced into the environment deliberately or accidentally.
“Mink form direct competition with native wildlife and are a major threat to our water vole populations. Projects are in place throughout the UK to help eradicate invasive species but it is an ongoing battle which won’t be won overnight.