Sunday 19 May
American mink (Mustela vison)
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American mink fact file
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American mink description
The introduced American mink (Mustela vison) has a slender body, short legs and a tail that is about a third of the body length (4). The thick, glossy fur can vary in colour, but is generally dark brown or black, and becomes darker in winter (2).
- Male head-body length: 34 - 54 cm (2)
- Female head-body length: 30 - 45 cm (2)
- Male tail length: 15 - 21 cm (2)
- Female tail length: 14 - 20 cm (2)
- 0.5 - 1.5 kg (2)
American mink biology
The semi-aquatic American mink is a versatile opportunistic predator (2) (4), preying on rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), water voles (Arvicola terrestris), and many other mammals, as well as a range of fish, birds, eggs, crayfish, and a variety of invertebrates (6). This species has had a devastating effect on native species; it has been implicated in the precipitous decline of the water vole, and poses a serious threat to game birds, fish and birds nesting on offshore islands (6). Although it can be active at any time during the 24-hour period, the activity of the American mink tends to peak at night and at dusk (6). They are solitary and territorial, with the male home range overlapping several female ranges (6). Mating occurs once a year, between February and April (6). During this time males leave their territories and increase their range in search of females (2). A single litter of four to seven young is produced between April and May (6). When they reach 13 to 14 weeks of age, the young disperse away from the place of birth (6).Top
American mink range
American mink, native to North America, were first introduced to fur farms in Britain in 1929; the first official record of escapees breeding in the wild was in 1957 (5). Following many accidental and deliberate releases, the species is now widespread and common throughout Britain and much of Europe (6). In Britain they are spreading in terms of range and numbers, extending into East Anglia and Yorkshire (6). However, in some areas of England the population is declining, this may be due to the return of the native otter (Lutra lutra) (6).Top
American mink habitat
Lives in aquatic habitats, but the American mink can spend some time away from water and can even live near urban areas (6).Top
American mink status
The American mink is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (7). It is introduced to the UK. Dispersal of American mink is controlled by the following legislation: Mink Keeping Order 2000 (separate Acts relevant for England, Wales and Scotland). Release of American mink is illegal under Schedule 9 (Part I) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (3).Top
American mink threatsTop
American mink conservation
Eradication of mink throughout Britain is unlikely and would be extremely expensive; however, populations remain low where regular culling is carried out on a local basis. Sensitive areas could be fenced off (5), and on previously predator free islands, such as Harris, which supports internationally significant populations of nesting sea birds; eradication of mink is essential (5). It is now apparent that in areas where otters have made a recovery, mink have been declining (5), this is certainly encouraging news.Top
Find out more
For more information on British mammals see:
The Mammal Society:
Information authenticated by Dr Pat Morris, with the support of the British Ecological Society.
- An organism that feeds on flesh. The term can also be used to refer to a mammal in the order Carnivora.
- Home range
- The area occupied by an animal during routine activities, which is not actively defended.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
- An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
Animal Diversity Web (July, 2002)
- Macdonald, D.W. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- The Environment Agency. (1998) Species and Habitats Handbook. The Environment Agency, Bristol.
- Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
The Mammal Society (July, 2002)
- Macdonald, D.W. and Tattersall, F.T. (2001) Britain's Mammals- The Challenge for Conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University.
IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
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