THEY are voracious predators that have plagued remote islands and countryside communities.

But it seems the mink has now set its teeth on more metropolitan prey in the Scottish capital.

Such has been the rise of mink numbers, Edinburgh City Council is to consider a £1.5 million plan to eradicate the species.

In recent years, the pest has infested every waterway, devastated vole populations and attacked a pond full of prize carp in the city.

It is thought hundreds of the carnivores, which originally came from the US and are notorious for destroying native wildlife, have thrived in waterways in Edinburgh including Water of Leith, Leith Docks and the Union Canal.

A council report estimates it would cost £4200 per kilometre to eradicate the mink, originally escapees from commercial farms thought to be responsible for a 90% decline in water voles around the UK.

Under the plan, the mink would be trapped and humanely killed. It would take up to five years to rid the waterways of mink which, with a bill of more than £300,000 a year, would take the total to £1.5m.

Mark McInnes, Tory councillor for the Meadows and Morningside, said a number of his constituents had raised the issue of the creatures, which he said have been vicious when confronted.

He said: “I propose that there are further reports on how to deal with this ongoing problem. I appreciate it is difficult to address because of the sheer numbers of them – there will be hundreds by now – and because of the way they are able to adapt, but people, especially along the [Union] canal, have said it has got much worse over the past few years.”

The report to be put to the council on Tuesday says mink are highly adaptable predators and can prey on species which do not form an essential part of their diet. A decline in the population of one prey species will cause mink to switch to an alternative. The predators are semi-aquatic carnivores and will prey on species such as water voles and ground-nesting birds.

It is understood at least one prize carp keeper has had hundreds of pounds worth of fish go missing from a garden pond while they have also been reported as causing problems by canal boat owners.

Mark Turley, director of community services at the council, said in his report that it is to be considered on Tuesday.

He said: “Recent advice from Scottish Natural Heritage, stated that, for mink control to be effective, it must be carried out intensively, on a multi-watercourse catchment level, otherwise new animals will rapidly re-colonise to replace mink which are culled.

“Control programmes under way in other parts of Scotland have significant levels of funding from European or national programmes and are medium-term projects of three to five years or longer. Control of mink would be achieved by trapping, followed by humane killing. Traps would need to be set at regular intervals along water courses and would require regular inspections.”

He added: “In view of the likely numbers of mink and their territorial nature, any trapping programme would need to be extensive, as eliminating mink from one location would create a vacuum, which would be filled by mink migrating from elsewhere. An eradication programme would need to be long-term for the same reason.

“The issue of mink control should be considered in the wider context of work on invasive non-native species,” he said, adding: “The driver for mink control is ecological rather than statutory.”