A war is being won to eradicate the Bradford district of a predator threatening the country’s native species.

Bradford Council started its battle with the American mink six years ago to help safeguard water voles – the quintessentially English rodent made famous by the character of Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s the Wind in the Willows.

Now, not only is the water vole thriving, there have been sightings of one of the country’s rarest mammals – the otter.

Countryside office Peter Britton said: “We are pretty much on target with mink control. We are doing very well at the moment, there were a lot of mink on the Aire and Wharfe rivers.

“Recently, I was privileged to watch an otter stalk a mink. It was a heart-stopping moment. It was the first time I had seen anything like that. A mink is direct competition to the otter. I think the work being done across the district would suggest we are getting there with the mink. We are seeing more evidence of otters and hopefully that will continue.”

Hundreds of mink have been trapped and destroyed across the district’s nature reserves just in the last two years with a little help from green keepers on golf courses and fishing clubs.

Mr Britton is now hoping British Waterways will get involved in helping to snare mink along the Leeds to Liverpool Canal.

He said: “Species like otters, mink and grey heron all eat fish and while British Waterways is improving its biomass of fish, there is not enough to support predators. We need fish to support these species and, if we remove mink, it will help a great deal.

‘‘The only place we are having difficulty is on the canal, we can only trap where we have permission. There is good support and co-operation and British Waterways may start do so some trapping as well.”

British Waterways says it deals with mink on a case-by-case basis.

Jonathan Hart-Woods, heritage and environment manager for British Waterways, said: “We are aware of the impact mink have on the bio-diversity of the canal network and would welcome discussions with interested parties or partners in order to develop a sustained and humane form of mink control.”