Neovison vison (American mink)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Neovison vison (Schreber, 1777)
Preferred Common Name
- American mink
Other Scientific Names
- Mustela vison Schreber, 1777
International Common Names
- English: mink
- Spanish: visón americano
- French: vison d’Amerique
- Russian: amerikanskaya norka
Local Common Names
- Germany: Mink
- Italy: visone americano
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Neovison vison (the American mink) is part of the mustelid family (order Carnivora). American mink live alone along riverbanks and lakeshores in much of Canada and the USA, and have been introduced to many countries to set up mink breeding farms for producing fur. They have often escaped from these farms and have become naturalised in many locations. In some instances there have been intentional releases by fur farmers hoping to produce better quality "free-range" fur (mainly in Eastern Europe), and by animal rights activists. In countries where fur farms still operate, mink still frequently escape into the surrounding environment. In its introduced range the mink has proved to be an extremely competitive predator which has had a huge impact on prey populations.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Mustelidae
- Genus: Neovison
- Species: Neovison vison
DescriptionTop of page
N. vison is a medium-sized semi-aquatic carnivore, a member of the family Mustelidae. It has short ears, relatively short limbs, and a tail approximately one third of the body length. Wild native American mink are almost uniformly dark brown, but the chin is white, and white markings may also occur on the throat, chest and belly (Larivière, 1999); breeding in fur farms (or ranches) has resulted in a wide range of pelage colours, and consequently escaped feral mink may vary in colour from white, grey or fawn through to black. The dental formula is 188.8.131.52./184.108.40.206. There is sexual dimorphism, with females being somewhat smaller in size and approximately 50% lighter in mass (Larivière, 1999). Weight ranges from 660-1500 g (females) and 1100-2,000 g (males), and elongated body length from approximately 45-65 cm (males) and 35-55 cm (females) (Jackson, 1961; Fairley, 1980; Chanin, 1983; Askins and Chapman, 1984; Birks and Dunstone, 1985; Smal, 1988; Sidorovich, 1997; Melero et al., 2011).
DistributionTop of page
Native range: Canada and United States, except Arizona and the dry parts of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and western Texas. Mink were brought to Newfoundland, Canada, in 1934, for fur farming, and now a wild population is established (Northcott et al., 1974; Larivière, 1999). Feral mink, escaped from fur farms, have also colonized territory already inhabited by wild members of the same species.
Known introduced range: Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Chile, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Japan, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia (formerly), Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom (Bonesi and Palazón , 2007; ISSG, 2011; DAISIE, 2015; NIES, 2015; Long, 2003); in a few of these countries there are only occasional reports of individuals, rather than an established population. See Distribution table for details.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Japan||Localised||Introduced||1960s||Invasive||NIES, 2015||In Hokkaido and parts of Honshu. First introduced in 1928; feral population established in 1960s.|
|-Russia (Asia)||Widespread||Introduced||1930s||Invasive||Long, 2003; ISSG, 2011|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999; Long, 2003||Mostly native, but introduced to two small islands (Lanz and Cox)|
|-New Brunswick||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Native||Northcott et al., 1974; NatureServe, 2015||Native to Labrador; introduced to Newfoundland in 1934|
|-Northwest Territories||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-Nova Scotia||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-Yukon Territory||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Alaska||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999; Long, 2003||Mostly native; some attempted introductions to islands|
|-New Hampshire||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-New Jersey||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-New York||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-North Carolina||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-North Dakota||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-South Carolina||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-South Dakota||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|-West Virginia||Present||Native||Larivière, 1999|
|Argentina||Present||Introduced||1930s||Invasive||Lizarralde and Escobar, 2000; ISSG, 2011|
|Chile||Present||Introduced||1930s||Invasive||Jaksic et al., 2002; ISSG, 2011|
|Belgium||Present, few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011||Uncertain whether established|
|Czech Republic||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Estonia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011||Eradicated from Hiiumaa Island|
|Hungary||Present, few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011||Uncertain whether established|
|Italy||Present||Introduced||1980s||Invasive||Bonesi and Palazon, 2007|
|-Sardinia||Present||Introduced||1980s?||Invasive||Spagnesi et al., 2002; ISSG, 2011|
|Luxembourg||Present, few occurrences||Introduced||DAISIE, 2015|
|Netherlands||Present, few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011; DAISIE, 2015|
|Portugal||Present||Introduced||late 1980s||Invasive||Bonesi and Palazon, 2007|
|Russian Federation||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Russia (Europe)||Widespread||Introduced||1930s||Invasive||Long, 2003; ISSG, 2011|
|Serbia||Present, few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011||Uncertain whether established|
|Slovakia||Present||Introduced||Bonesi and Palazon, 2007; DAISIE, 2015|
|Slovenia||Present, few occurrences||Introduced||ISSG, 2011; DAISIE, 2015||Uncertain whether established; one source suggests now extinct|
|-England and Wales||Present||Introduced||1929||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Northern Ireland||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
N. vison was introduced to Europe for fur farming in the 1920s and 1930s, and became established in the wild due to accidental escapes (Long, 2003). There were also a number of deliberate releases in the Soviet Union in the mid-20th century to establish a harvestable population with better quality ‘free range’ fur (Aliev and Sanderson, 1970; Macdonald and Harrington, 2003; Long, 2003). In more recent years deliberate release from fur farms by animal rights activists has become a regular hazard in Europe – for example 6000 mink were released from a fur farm in the Netherlands in 2003 (Reynolds et al., 2004) and there have been several cases in Spain (Palazón and Ruiz-Olmo, 1997). Mink were introduced to Argentina and Chile for fur farming in the 1930s and were reported in the wild in the 1970s and 1980s, expanding rapidly. By the 1990s, they were confirmed to be living on a number of islands in the Tierra del Fuego archipielago (Jaksic et al., 2002; Rozzi and Sherriffs, 2003; Rozzi et al., 2006).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Mink are still likely to escape from fur farms in countries where such farms are still in operation (Hammershøj, 2004).
HabitatTop of page
N. vison is semi-aquatic and inhabits the densely vegetated boundaries of lakes and rivers (Previtali et al., 1998; Bonesi et al. 2000; Macdonald and Harrington, 2003; Nowak, 2005), as well as streams, coasts, estuaries, wooded marshlands and swamps. Habitats with broad littoral zones, abundant cover and rockpools are particularly favoured; mink prefer to avoid open areas without vegetation (Dunstone and Birks, 1983; Dunstone 1993; Melero et al., 2008b; Zabala et al. 2007). In the UK, they will live near urban areas if there is sufficient cover and abundance of prey (Macdonald et al., 2000). An existing cavity usually within 10 metres of water is nearly always used to provide a den site, and several dens may be found within one home range. The species can be found in xeric habitats if food is abundant (Gerell, 1967). In marine environments, American mink select shallow vegetated and tidal slopes protected from waves (Ben-David et al. 1996). Mink are able climbers (Larivière, 1996) and may find dens in scrub, brush, tree roots, stones, hollow trees or rabbit burrows which they then elaborate and modify (Halliwell and Macdonald, 1996).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Estuaries||Present, no further details|
|Lakes||Present, no further details|
|Rivers / streams||Present, no further details|
|Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details|
|Natural forests||Present, no further details|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Wetlands||Present, no further details|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
N. vison has 2n = 30 chromosomes. Hybridization with the European mink Mustela lutreola leads to resorption of embryos (Ternovsky, 1977).
N. vison mate in late winter and early spring, and young are born in the spring (April-June) (Hansson, 1947; Sidorovich, 1993), although this period is variable according to latitude and photoperiod (Sundqvist et al., 1989). Ovulation is induced by copulation (Enders, 1952); females may mate again if not fertilized. Gestation lasts 39-76 days (average = 51 days), with delayed implantation; the pre-implantation period lasts about 11-43 days, and the true gestation 28-33 days (Enders, 1952). Females typically give birth to 4-8 kits per litter, but there can be as many as 10-12 (Mitchell, 1961; Sidorovich, 1993). The young are born blind, with no teeth or hair, and females lactate for 6 to 8 weeks. The young open their eyes at 25-30 days of age, and the first teeth appear at a similar time. Juveniles begin hunting at 8 weeks of age but remain with the mother until autumn (Setember). Males mature at 9-10 months of age and weigh 900-1750 g at maturity; females mature at 10-11 months weighing 60-1100 g. Both sexes are promiscuous and no pair bonds are formed.
Population Size and Density
The abundance of mink varies widely between different habitats; they live individually and occupy home ranges that vary in size with the quality of the habitat. Males have larger home ranges than females (Gerell, 1970). Home ranges vary between 1 km and 6 km long (Dunstone, 1993; Zabala et al., 2007; Melero et al., 2008b), according to prey availability (Birks and Linn, 1982). Dunstone and Birks (1985) found that home range lengths in riverine habitats in England were 2.53 and 2.16 km for males and females, respectively, with figures of 1.90 and 1.46 km in lacustrine environments, and 1.50 and 1.09 km in coastal habitat. Melero et al. (2008b) found home range lengths in Spain between 0.89 and 6.80 km for males and 0.21 and 2.90 km for females.
The tables below give further examples of density and range size from different studies.
Mink density (mink/km)
Dunstone and Birks, 1983; Birks and Dunstone, 1991
Previtali et al., 1998
Moore et al., 2003
Schüttler et al., 2010
Halliwell and Macdonald, 1996
Birks and Dunstone, 1991
Harrington et al., 2009
Sidorovich et al., 1996
Bonesi and Macdonald, 2004
Moore et al., 2003
Melero et al., 2008b
Average range length (km)
Birks and Linn, 1982
Birks and Linn, 1982
5.3 and 4.2
Detailed knowledge of population size is lacking for most countries in which the species has become established; the population in the UK was estimated at 36,950 in 2004 (Marchant and Bonesi, 2012).
N. vison is strictly carnivorous, but is a generalist, opportunistic predator that feeds on small mammals such as rodents, waterbirds, small invertebrates such as crustaceans (crayfish and crabs), amphibians (mostly frogs), reptiles and fish (Errington, 1954; Day and Linn, 1972; Erlinge, 1972; Cuthbert, 1979; Chanin and Linn, 1980; Birks and Dunstone, 1985; Ward et al., 1986; Proulx et al., 1987; Lodé, 1993; Bueno, 1994; Sidorovich, 2000; Delibes et al., 2004; Previtali et al., 1998; Melero et al., 2008a). In their native range they feed predominantly on muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) and hares (Gilbert and Nancekivell, 1982). Opportunistically, they also consume lagomorphs, sciurids, eggs, aquatic insects, earthworms and snails (Hamilton, 1959; Akande, 1972; Arnold and Fritzell, 1987). On the United Kingdom mainland, they feed mainly on rabbits, brown rats and field voles (Dunstone, 1993; Strachan and Jefferies, 1996, cited in Macdonald and Harrington, 2003), while on offshore islands they concentrate on marine invertebrates, fish and birds (Helyar, 2005). The proportion of mammals in their diet varies significantly with local availability and abundance. Diet may differ between individuals, sexes and seasons (Macdonald and Harrington, 2003). Although rabbits are often the most important summer food, in winter fish are important prey, especially as many species become torpid and thus easier to catch when water temperatures are low. Near rivers, mammals, fish and amphibians are the most important food resources, whereas near lakes birds and fish predominate (Jedrzejewska et al., 2001; Bartoszewicz and Zalewski, 2003). In coastal habitats, gulls are the most common avian prey (Macdonald et al., 2000); for example a study on Sálvora island (NW Spain) found that rabbits and gulls were the main prey (Romero, 2007). Mink will often kill more birds than they can eat, and will store the surplus to eat later, a habit displayed by many carnivores (research cited by Macdonald and Harrington, 2003). They will feed on eggs, young and sometimes adult birds. Chickens and gamebirds form less than 1% of the diet of mink in south-west England (Macdonald et al., 2000). In another study, which investigated the mink's diet during the birds' breeding season (March-September), it was found that Ralliformes (coots or moorhens) represented 10% of the ingested biomass, while rabbits represented 45%, fish 25% and small mammals 14%; mink obtained 11% of their energy requirements from coots and moorhens (Ferreras and Macdonald, 1999). As well as abundance of different prey species and habitat type, the proportion of different prey categories is also affected by competition with other predators (Bonesi et al., 2004).
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
There is evidence to suggest otters (Lutra lutra) are hostile towards mink and facilitation of otter recovery could be an important component of mink control in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe (Macdonald and Harrington, 2003).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Once introduced to a new region after escaping from fur farms or being deliberately released, N. vison can spread naturally; they have a strong capacity for colonization, and can cross sea channels easily. This has for example enabled them to colonise many of the islands in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
N. vison have often escaped from fur farms; this first happened not long after farming began in Europe (Long, 2003), and still occurs in countries where mink farms are still in operation (Hammershoj, 2004). These escapes can be small (a few individuals) or massive (fire, hurricanes, other natural disasters, etc.) (Palazón and Ruiz-Olmo, 1997).
In the mid-20th century, N. vison were deliberately released in parts of the Soviet Union to establish a harvestable population with better quality ‘free-range fur (Aliev and Sanderson, 1970; Macdonald and Harrington, 2003; Long, 2003).
Deliberate release from fur farms by animal rights activists has become a regular hazard; for example 6000 mink were released from a fur farm in the Netherlands in 2003 (Reynolds et al., 2004), and there have been several cases in Spain (Palazón and Ruiz-Olmo, 1997). Most released mink die in a few days, but a few can survive and establish wild populations.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||Negative|
Economic ImpactTop of page
N. vison may impact various economic sectors such as trout and salmon farms and hatcheries, poultry, rabbit and sheep farms and game bird rearing operations by preying on fish, chickens and other farm birds, rabbits, newborn lambs and reared game birds (Macdonald and Harrington 2003; Macdonald et al., 2000; Harrison and Symes, 1989; Moore et al., 2000; Sheail, 2004), although Harrison and Symes (1989) concluded that they were a relatively minor problem in the UK. Predation on farm animals happens in South America as well as Europe (Rozzi and Sherriffs, 2003).
Wild game birds, rabbits and fish are also preyed upon by mink, affecting hunters and anglers; according to Moore et al. (2000) they can also have an impact on the eco-tourism industry through predation on ground-nesting birds and waterfowl.
Another type of economic impact is the economic effort to control and eradicate mink in countries where the species is non-native. The cost has not so far been estimated, but it must be very high.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
N. vison is a voracious predator which sometimes kills in excess of its needs due to the phenomenon of surplus killing. Some species are particularly vulnerable to mink predation (MacDonald et al., 1999; Rushton et al., 2000; Aars et al., 2001). As a result an individual mink may decimate entire colonies and populations of ground nesting birds (Craik, 1997; Ferreras and Macdonald, 1999; Clode and MacDonald, 2002; Nordström and Korpimäki, 2004). In Europe, mink predation has caused the decimation of seabird colonies and reduction of some waterfowl populations: coot Fulica atra, moorhen Gallinula chloropus and other Rallidae (Ferreras and Macdonald, 1999). For example, mink almost certainly have a serious adverse effect on the native biodiversity of the Western Isles (UK) and pose a threat to the many internationally important populations of ground-nesting birds. Terns and other seabirds are impacted by mink predation; the effect on riparian bird species is less clear but may potentially be high (Macdonald and Harrington, 2003).
Overall mink have large impacts on prey populations. The near extinction of the water vole (Arvicola terrestris or Arvicola amphibius) in the UK can attest to this (Jefferies, 2003); N. vison is considered the second most important reason for the decline in this species (Rushton et al., 2000; Aars et al., 2001; Macdonald et al., 2007). This species is also affected by mink in Belarus (Sidorovich and Macdonald, 2001) and Lithuania (Bonesi and Palazón, 2007). In the Iberian Peninsula the Iberian water vole Arvicola sapidus and the European desman Galemys pyrenaicus are affected (Ruiz-Olmo et al., 1997; Bonesi and Palazón, 2007).
In Finland, N. vison preys on birds, small mammals and amphibians on island in the Baltic Sea (Nordström et al., 2002, 2003; Nordström and Korpimäki, 2004; Banks et al., 2005). It has had a significant impact on the bank vole Myodes glareolus (or Clethrionomys glareolus), field vole Microtus agrestis and common frog Rana temporaria (Banks et al., 2004, 2005).
In Poland, the arrival of N. vison has coincided with the decline of populations of the muskrat Ondatra zibethicus (also an introduced species) and waterfowl (Bartoszewicz and Zalewski, 2003; Brzezinski and Marzec, 2003).
In Denmark and in Scandinavia more generally, N. vison could prey on some endangered species of amphibians (Hammershøj et al., 2004; Ahola et al., 2006). In the Czech Republic, it has shown a notable impact on waterfowl and the stone crayfish Austropotamobius torrentium (Sálek et al., 2005), and also on the dice snake Natrix tessellata (Bonesi and Palazón, 2007). In Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, it impacts on waterbirds in bird sanctuaries (Bonesi and Palazón, 2007), and in wetlands, estuaries and coastal lakes (Ozolinš and Piläts, 1995).
In Iceland, mink have been implicated in the demise or extinction of some bird species: ground-nesting species living in large colonies on islands, or wetland species (Hersteinsson, 1999). In Ireland, species affected by mink are waterfowl, island-nesting birds and terns (Sterna spp.).
There is also evidence that mink could account for a large proportion of salmonid mortality in some river systems (Heggenes and Borgstrøm 1988).
Native rodents in South America are also affected (Woodroffe et al. 1990), as are birds; some are local endemics. Several population of water birds and semi-aquatic mammals (Myocastor coypus coypus) from lakes in Andean Patagonia are affected (Erize et al., 1981; Previtali et al., 1998; Lizarralde and Escobar, 2000). On Patagonian islands, many endemic species have not developed defences against predators (Rozzi and Sherriffs, 2003). There are reports of mink predation on native bird species such as the Magallanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus), the Upland Goose (Chloephaga picta), the Flightless Steamerduck (Tachyeres pteneres), the Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus), the Dolphin Gull (Leucophaeus scoresbii or Larus scoresbii) and the South American Tern (Sterna hirundinacea) (Rozzi and Sherriffs, 2003; Schüttler et al., 2009; Ibarra et al., 2009). Breeding failure has occurred in some aquatic bird species endemic to Patagonia (Schüttler et al., 2009), possibly as a result of the presence of this new terrestrial predator. On Navarino Island in Chilean Patagonia the main prey of N. vison are birds in spring and summer, and mammals in autumn and winter (Schüttler et al., 2008; Ibarra et al., 2009). Among birds, mink preyed on Passeriformes, Anseriformes and Pelecaniformes, and among mammals on the exotic muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) and the native mouse Abrothrix xanthorhinus (or Abrothrix olivaceus) (Schüttler et al., 2008).
The family Mustelidae, to which N. vison itself belongs, is well represented throughout the countries to which it has been introduced. N. vison may therefore pose a risk to other mustelid species through competition for food and territories. Aggressive interactions between N. vison and the critically endangered (IUCN, 2014) European mink have been observed, with M. lutreola often driven from their territories in Belarus (Sidorovich and Macdonald 2001; Macdonald et al., 2002b)). In Spain, M. lutreola have been killed by N. vison (Põdra et al., 2013). N. vison is not, however, the sole cause of the decline in M. lutreola as many populations of the latter were in decline due to habitat loss and overhunting before the arrival of N. vison. European polecat (Mustela putorius) populations also appear to be have been negatively affected by the spread of American mink in Belarus (Sidorovich and Macdonald 2001; Maran et al. 1998) and north-eastern Spain (Palazón et al., 2010). In its native range N. vison lives sympatrically with the river otter Lutra canadensis with niche separation allowing coexistence with minimal competition (Ben-David et al., 1996). According to Powell and Zieliniski (1983), N. vison and the Eurasian otter Lutra lutra do not compete extensively and can co-exist due to differences in habitat use and minimal dietary overlap (on the other hand Macdonald and Harrington (2003) report that there is evidence to suggest that otters are hostile towards mink and suggest that facilitation of otter recovery could be an important component of mink control in Europe).
South American mustelids are also affected by N. vison (Woodroffe et al. 1990). For instance, in Argentinean Patagonia, resource use by N. vison was more similar to that of the southern river otter (Lutra provocax or Lontra provocax) where the species occurred sympatrically than where they were allopatric (Fasola et al., 2009).
A recent survey (Mañas et al., 2001) identified the presence of Aleutian mink disease parvovirus (ADV) in free-ranging mustelids in Spain including both the European and American mink (Mustela lutreola and N. vison) and the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), having likely been introduced with N. vison.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Arvicola sapidus||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)||;||Predation||Ruiz-Olmo et al., 1997|
|Arvicola terrestris||National list(s) National list(s)||UK||Predation||Ferreras and MacDonald, 1999; Jefferies, 2003|
|Galemys pyrenaicus||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)||; ;||Predation||Ruiz-Olmo et al., 1997|
|Mustela lutreola||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)||Belarus; ; Romania; Russian Federation;||Competition - monopolizing resources||Macdonald et al., 2002b; Põdra et al., 2013; Sidorovich and MacDonald, 2001|
Social ImpactTop of page
Social impact is associated with economic impact on poultry farming, hunting, angling and fish farming.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (Stockholm, Sweden) identifies mustelids (including mink), along with cats, dogs, horses, humans, marine mammals and pigs, as being propagating hosts of influenza viruses. Some influenza types that infect mustelids are H3N2, H10N4 and H5N1 viruses (Influenza team (ECDC), 2006).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
UsesTop of page
N. vison was widely farmed for its fur throughout the twentieth century, and this continues today in some countries.
Uses ListTop of page
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
N. vison is similar in appearance to the European mink Mustela lutreola, but it has a longer tail (up to half the body length), and generally lacks the white upper lip shown by M. lutreola (Heptner and Naumov, 2001; Marchant and Bonesi, 2012).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
More detailed information on prevention and control is provided by ISSG (undated).
The population size of introduced N. vison in some countries is so large that that complete eradication, without re-invasion from neighbouring countries or from fur farm escapes, is likely to be virtually impossible. However, there have been successful mink eradication programs on some islands where re-invasion is easier to control. A proposal to eradicate mink from the Western Isles in Scotland by the Central Science Laboratories (York) and Scottish Natural Heritage, funded by the EU, was described by Moore et al. (2003), who also reported that other countries were addressing the feasibility of carrying out similar eradication schemes; Marchant and Bonesi (2012) reported that the Western Isles eradication scheme was nearing completion. In a study on islands in Finland, it was found that 15 of 22 species of ground-nesting birds increased and returned to breed upon the experimental removal of mink (Nordström et al., 2002, 2003). In Spain and France, the control of N. vison is focused on preserving the western population of the European mink Mustela lutreola.
Macdonald and Harrington (2003) suggest a holistic approach to mink management, involving mink removal, habitat restoration, and the recovery of native competitors. It is necessary to ask whether control can be achieved on any geographical scale, how long-term the effects will be, and what the costs would be in terms of either money or animal welfare (Reynolds et al., 2004).
The return of the larger otter (Lutra lutra) could be an important component of mink control in the UK, as otters are hostile and detrimental towards N. vison (Macdonald and Harrington, 2003). In Denmark the focus has been on prevention of escape from mink farms -- the main problem is the presence of more than 2000 farms which can act as a source for the wild populations (Hammershøj et al., 2005).
In some areas of conservation importance, or for the protection of livestock, exclusion using mink-proof fences may be the most effective tool. Various types of repellent may also be used (Baker and Macdonald (1999), cited in Macdonald and Harrington, 2003).
Other physical methods of control include rifle use (by day), shotgun use, live-trapping and shooting, kill-trapping, snares and the use of dogs (Macdonald et al., 2000; Kirkwood, 2005). In Finland, dogs are used to locate the mink and then an air-blaster is used to flush them out.
Removal of mink by live trapping is a successful method of control. In areas where native mustelids live, selective killing procedures may be necessary. Bait containing mink scent glands has been found to be particularly successful (Roy et al., 2006), as mink, like other mustelids, communicate via scent deposition. The expense of such an operation at a large scale may be prohibitive but this method has been successfully used in the Western Isles (UK), in Belarus between 1998 and 2001 (Sidorovich and Polozov, 2002) and on Hiiumaa Island in Estonia (where N. vison was eradicated in 1998-1999 to create a sanctuary for the European mink Mustela lutreola) (Macdonald and Harrington, 2003; Maran, 2003).
The use of rafts for trapping or monitoring has a number of benefits: reduced need for manpower, increased trapping efficiency, reduced non-target captures and reduced number of traps (Reynolds et al., 2004).
Modelling exercises have predicted that 60% of mink removed need to be juveniles or sub-adults in order to significantly impact mink numbers. The timing of mink control is also important -- at the end of summer mink that remain are sometimes regarded as a "doomed surplus" and thus their removal would entail a waste of culling effort.
The ethical and animal welfare aspects of wildlife control are discussed by Littin and Mellor (2005).
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ContributorsTop of page
16/06/14: Updated by:
Santiago Palazón, consultant, Spain
Reviewed for ISSG by: Dr. Sugoto Roy Coordinator, Hebridean Mink Project Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton,York UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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