Retrieving species information. This may take a few seconds.
Retrieving gallery information. This may take a few seconds.
The American mink is a semi-aquatic mustelid with rich, usually dark brown fur. There is often a white patch on the chin but this species generally lacks the white upper lip shown by the European mink M. lutreola. It is a generalist and opportunist predator with a variable diet that includes aquatic, semi-aquatic and terrestrial prey.
The American mink is almost ubiquitous in GB but, except for parts of northern Scotland, Arran, the Outer Hebrides and most offshore islands. The GB population size was estimated at 36,950 in 2004.
Mink occupy both freshwater and saltwater habitats. Mink habitually follow waterways, lake edges and coasts, but cross other habitats regularly. They can often spend time feeding away from water, where conditions allow.
|Native range:||Northern America, Alberta, British Columbia, Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Yukon|
|Status in England:||Non-Native|
|Status in Scotland:||Non-Native|
|Status in Wales:||Non-Native|
|Location of first record:||Singleton, near Blackpool|
|Date of first record:||1948|
The native range is in North America, from southern states of the USA to the edge of the Arctic Circle in Canada and Alaska.
The first GB imports of American mink to fur farms were in 1929. Escapes were soon being reported and the first record from the wild was 1948 but the first breeding in the wild was not confirmed until 1956.
The number of mink farms in GB rose to a peak of around 700 in 1962. From 1929 and into the 1950s, large shipments of mink were being imported from North America and Scandinavia. The last GB mink farm closed in 2003. During this long period, many escapes took place from captivity and many animals were also deliberately released. The population spread rapidly, especially along rivers, in places reaching offshore islands.
Mink are now widespread in GB. An eradication attempt is nearing completion in the Outer Hebrides. Mink numbers may have decreased in some areas, especially in England, with a resurgence of otter populations. American mink are widespread from Iceland, north Norway and Russia south to Spain and Italy. Other non-native populations occur in Patagonia and possibly in Japan and other Asian countries. It is widely regarded as seriously invasive.
Males usually disperse further than females and can disperse up to 50 km from their natal home range, typically along water bodies.
Males (average 1.2 kg) are much heavier than females (0.7 kg). There is intra-sexual territoriality with inter-sexual overlap. In the temperate zone mating takes place between late February and early April. Implantation is delayed and gestation lasts about 39 days. On average 5.8 young per litter are born between April and May. They start dispersing in August and reach sexual maturity at 10 months. Life expectancy is 3–4 years in the wild.
Mink may occasionally be taken by raptors and by larger mammalian predators.
American mink hunt mostly in water and are most frequently seen in rivers or lakes, or at the coast. They also occur in a wide range of wooded or scrubby habitats, not necessarily near water.
American mink have been introduced widely in Europe, in southern and eastern Russia and in South America (Argentina and Chile) and possibly also in Japan and other Asian countries. Numbers are increasing worldwide but apparently decreasing in some European countries (e.g. GB, Sweden).
Impact on native species can occur through predation, competition, and potentially also by acting as a vector of disease. Significant population declines of ground-nesting birds (e.g. Larus ridibundus, Sterna hirundo) and small mammals (e.g. water vole Arvicola amphibius) have resulted from mink predation in its introduced range. The European mink (Mustela lutreola), whose range is now restricted to a few fragmented populations in continental Europe, is threatened with extinction by the American mink through competition by means of direct aggression. Little is known about mink as a vector of disease but Aleutian disease has been found in a feral population and could be transmissible to native mustelids.
Can inflict damage to free-ranging chickens, reared game birds, fisheries (salmon farming) and the ecotourism industry through predation on ground-nesting birds.
American mink is listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is thus an offence to release or to allow the escape of this species into the wild.
Wilson, D.E. & Mittelmeier, R.A. (eds) (2009) Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 1: Carnivores. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Bevanger, K. & Henriksen, G. (1995) The distributional history and present status of the American mink (Mustela vison Schreber, 1777) in Norway. Annales Zoologici Fennici, 32, 11–14.
Birks, J.D.S. (1989) What regulates the numbers of feral mink? Nature in Devon, 10, 45–61.
Birks, J. (1990) Feral mink and nature conservation. British Wildlife, 1, 313–323.
Birks, J.D.S. & Dunstone, N. (1985) Sex related differences in the diet of the mink Mustela vison. Holarctic Ecology, 8, 245–252.
Birks, J.D.S. & Linn, I.J. (1982) Studies of home range of the feral mink, Mustela vison. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London, 49, 231–257.
Bonesi, L., Harrington, L., Maran, T., Sidorovich, V.E. & Macdonald, D.W. (2006) Demography of three populations of American mink, Mustela vison, in Europe. Mammal Review, 36, 98–106.
Bonesi, L., Strachan, R. & Macdonald, D.W. (2006) Why are there fewer signs of mink in England? Considering multiple hypotheses. Biological Conservation, 130, 268–277.
Brzezinski, M. & Marzec, M. (2003) The origin, dispersal and distribution of the American mink Mustela vison in Poland. Acta Theriologica, 48, 505–514.
Dunstone, N. & Birks, J.D.S. (1983) Activity budget and habitat usage by coastal-living mink (Mustela vison Schreber). Acta Zoologica Fennica, 174, 189–191.
Dunstone, N. & Birks, J. (1985) The comparative ecology of coastal, riverine and lacustrine mink Mustela vison in Britain. Zeitschrift für Angewandte Zoologie, 72, 59–70.
Erlinge, S. (1972) Interspecific relations between otter (Lutra lutra) and mink (Mustela vison) in Sweden. Oikos, 23, 327–334.
Gerell, R. (1967) Dispersal and acclimatization of the mink (Mustela vison Schreb.) in Sweden. Viltrevy, 4, 1–38.
Gerell, R. (1971) Population studies on mink Mustela vison in southern Sweden. Oikos, 8, 83–109.
Hammershøj, M. (2003) Population ecology of free-ranging American mink Mustela vison in Denmark. PhD thesis, Kalø, Denmark.
Jedrzeijewska, B., Sidorovich, V.E., Pikulik, M.M. & Jedrezejewski, W. (2001) Feeding habits of the otter and the American mink in Bialowieza Primeval Forest (Poland) compared to other Eurasian populations. Ecography, 24, 165–180.
Kauhala, K. (1996) Distributional history of the American mink (Mustela vison) in Finland with special reference to the trends of otter (Lutra lutra) populations. Annales Zoologici Fennici, 33, 283–291.
Maran, T., Kruuk, H., Macdonald, D.W. & Polma, M. (1998) Diet of two species of mink in Estonia: displacement of Mustela lutreola by Mustela vison. Journal of Zoology, 245, 218–222.
Romanowski, J. (1990) Minks in Poland. Small Carnivore Conservation, 2, 13.
Ruiz-Olmo, J., Palazon, S., Bueno, F., Bravo, C., Munilla, I. & Romero, R. (1997) Distribution, status and colonization of the American mink Mustela vison in Spain. Journal of Wildlife Research, 2, 30–36.
Yamaguchi, N., Rushton, S. & Macdonald, D.W. (2003) Habitat preferences of feral American mink in the Upper Thames. Journal of Mammalogy, 84, 1356–1373.
Aars, J., Lambin, X., Denny, R. & Griffin, A. (2001) Water vole in the Scottish uplands: distribution patterns of disturbed and pristine populations ahead and behind the American mink invasion front. Animal Conservation, 4, 187–194.
Barreto, G.R., Rushton, S.P., Strachan, R. & Macdonald, D.W. (1998) The role of habitat and mink predation in determining the status and distribution of declining populations of water voles in England. Animal Conservation, 1, 129–137.
Craik, C. (1997) Long-term effects of North American Mink Mustela vison on seabirds in western Scotland. Bird Study, 44, 303–309.
Delibes, M., Clavero, M., Prenda, J., Blázquez, M.D.C. & Ferreras, P. (2004) Potential impact of an exotic mammal on rocky intertidal communities of northwestern Spain. Biological Invasions, 6, 213–219.
Ferreras, P. & Macdonald, D.W. (1999) The impact of American mink Mustela vison on water birds in the upper Thames. Journal of Applied Ecology, 36, 701–708.
Hammershøj, M. & Asferg, T. (2000) Mink and polecats in Denmark: status, control and damage to poultry. Mammal Review, 30, 228.
Harrison, M.D.K. & Symes, R.G. (1989) Economic damage by feral American mink (Mustela vison) in England and Wales. Mammals As Pests, 242–250.
Hersteinsson, P. (1999) Methods to eradicate the American mink (Mustela vison) in Iceland. In Proceedings of the Workshop on the control and eradication of non-native terrestrial vertebrates. Vol. 41, Environmental Encounters, pp. 25–29. Council of Europe Publishing.
Jefferies, D.J. (2003) The water vole and mink survey of Britain 1996–1998 with a history of the long term changes in the status of both species and their causes. The Vincent Wildlife Trust, Ledbury, UK.
Lambin, X., Telfer, S., Denny, R., Aars, J., Griffin, C., Dallas, J. & Piertney, S. (1999) The roles of isolation and mink predation in water vole metapopulations. Final Report to the Trustees of the People's Trust for Endangered Species.
Moore, N.P., Roy, S.S. & Helyar, A. (2003) Mink (Mustela vison) eradication to protect ground-nesting birds in the Western Isles, Scotland, United Kingdom. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 30, 443–452.
Nordström, M., Hogmander, J., Laine, J., Nummelin, J., Laanetu, N. & Korpimäki, E. (2003) Effects of feral mink removal on seabirds, waders and passerines on small islands of the Baltic Sea. Biological Conservation, 109, 359–368.
Sidorovich, N.V. & Polozov, A. (2002) Partial eradication of the American mink Mustela vison as a way to maintain the declining population of the European mink Mustela lutreola in a continental area. A case study in the Lovat River head, NE Belarus. Small Carnivore Conservation, 26, 12–14.
Woodroffe, G.L., Lawton, J.H. & Davidson, W.L. (1990) The impact of feral mink Mustela vison on water voles Arvicola terrestris in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. Biological Conservation, 51, 49–62.
Yamaguchi, N. & Macdonald, D.W. (2001) Detection of Aleutian disease antibodies in feral American mink in southern England. Veterinary Record, 149, 485–488.
Birnbaum, C. (2006) NOBANIS Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet – Mustela vison. In Online Database of the North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species. NOBANIS www.nobanis.org. full text
Dunstone, N. (1993) The mink. T. & A.D. Poyser, London.
GB Distribution from NBN Gateway
John Marchant, Laura Bonesi
May 29th, 2012