As an invasive species in the United Kingdom, minks have been the subject of at least two novels. Ewan Clarkson's 1968 Break for Freedom (published as Syla, the Mink in the USA) tells the story of a female mink escaped from a fur farm in a realistic style. On the other hand, A.R. Lloyd's 1982 Kine is a heroic fantasy with the minks as villains and weasels and other indigenous animals as heroes.
The American mink differs from members of the genus Mustela (stoats and weasels) by its larger size and stouter form, which closely approach those of martens. It shares with martens a uniformly enlarged, bushy and somewhat tapering tail, rather than a slenderly terete tail with an enlarged bushy tip, as is the case in stoats. The American mink is similar in build to the European mink, but the tail is longer (constituting 38–51% of its body length).
Mink can be seen throughout the year but generally require either patience or luck to actually spot them. They are active throughout the day but are most likely to be seen between dawn and dusk.
Mating in this species occurs in the spring, usually between February and April, with births taking place in April, May and June (2) (4) (5). The female American mink shows delayed implantation, with the fertilised eggs not implanting in the uterus or developing straight away. Therefore, although the actual development of the embryo only takes 30 to 32 days (2) (5), the overall gestation period may last for 39 to 78 days (2), becoming shorter with increased temperatures (4) (5).
Although its numbers are increasing worldwide, the American mink appears to now be declining in a few European countries, including Sweden and the UK (7) (8). The reasons for this are largely unknown (8), and there is a lack of detailed information on the size, extent and impacts of the American mink population in many countries in its non-native range (3) (8). Monitoring programmes have been recommended so that this species’ introduced populations can be better understood and controlled (4).
The American mink is usually associated with water, being found along streams, rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps (2) (3) (4) (7), and also inhabiting coastlines (4) (5) (7). However, this species also occurs in drier areas away from water and even in urban areas if food is abundant (3) (4) (5) (7). The American mink tends to prefer habitats with dense vegetation (2), which provides it with plenty of cover (3).
As its common name suggests, the American mink is native to North America, where it occurs from Alaska and Canada south through most of the United States, except for dry parts of the southwest (1) (2) (5) (7).
More information on the American mink as an invasive species:
Escapees of fur farming farms established a self-sustaining and expanding population in the Iberian peninsula by the second half of the 20th century. In 2013, the Spanish government announced an eradication plan of the species, as a means to protect the falling populations of European mink and other endangered species affected such as the Pyrenean desman.
The American mink was deliberately introduced for commercial fur production in several provinces of Patagonia in 1930. The animals escaped or were released from farms in Chubut Province and now occur in the Chubut and Río Negro Provinces and Tierra del Fuego.
The American mink is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
borealis (Brass, 1911) nigrescens (Audubon and Bachman, 1854) tatarica (Popov, 1949) winingus (Baird, 1858)
The American mink often carries light tick and flea infestations. Tick species known to infest minks include Ixodes hexagonus, Ixodes canisuga, Ixodes ricinus, and Ixodes acuminatus. Flea species known to infest minks include Palaeopsylla minor, Malaraeus penicilliger, Ctenopthalmus noblis, Megabothris walkeri, Typhloceras poppei, and Nosopsyllus fasciatus. Endoparasites include Skrjabingylus nasicola and Troglotrema acutum. Trematode Metorchis conjunctus can also infect American minks.
The American mink can be found in a number of locations including: Europe, North America, United Kingdom, Wales. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.
The species' natural range encompasses North America from Alaska and Canada through the United States except Arizona and the more arid areas of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and West Texas.
Widespread, now found throughout the country except the far north of Scotland and some islands.
Transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME) is a prion disease of mink, similar to BSE in cattle and scrapie in sheep. A 1985 outbreak of TME in Stetsonville, Wisconsin resulted in a 60% mortality rate for the minks. Further testing revealed this agent is transmissible between mink, cattle, and sheep. The Stetsonville outbreak may have been due to the animals being fed the carcasses of other infected animals.
The American mink replaces and sometimes kills the European mink wherever their ranges overlap. The decline of European mink populations seems to coincide with the spread of the American mink. The diets of the American mink and European otter overlap to a great extent. In areas where these two species are sympatric, competition with the otter for fish causes the American mink to hunt land-based prey more frequently.
The American mink – known for its thick, dark, glossy fur – is an introduced predator that is very much out of place among the fauna of Norfolk and has a detrimental effect on the surrounding native wildlife.
The American mink (Neovison vison) is a medium-sized, semi-aquatic mustelid with a long, slender body and relatively short legs (3) (4). Its tail is less than half the length of its head and body (2) (3) (5) (6), and its short, rounded ears barely project above its fur (2) (5).
The species has been present in Iceland since the 1930s, and has become well established, despite it being heavily hunted since 1939. However, its population underwent a 42% decline during the years 2002–2006, which coincided with a decline in sandeel populations resulting in a drop in the seabird populations on which the minks feed.
Female American mink reach sexual maturity at about 12 months old, but males are not mature until they are around 18 months old (2) (3). This species can potentially live for eight to ten years in captivity (2) (4) (5), but three to four years is more typical in the wild (2) (4) (5) (7). Potential predators of the American mink include birds of prey, owls, foxes, coyotes, lynx and otters (5) (7).
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The American mink is highly prized for its fur, and has been introduced or has escaped from fur farms in a number of countries outside of its native range. This species has now established wild populations in Russia and many parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom and Ireland. The American mink also now occurs in the wild in Iceland, China and Japan, and feral populations have been reported from parts of South America, including Chile and Argentina (1) (3) (5) (7) (8).
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The American mink has a stronger odour than the skunk!
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The American mink has a large distribution and a stable population and is not currently considered to be under threat, although some populations may be affected by the alteration of wetland habitats and by water pollution (1). Individuals may also sometimes be killed on roads or by accidental capture in fish cages or gill nets (5). One subspecies of the American mink in southern Florida appears to be quite rare and may potentially be threatened by water diversion projects (2).
Data related to Neovison vison at Wikispecies Media related to Neovison vison at Wikimedia Commons The dictionary definition of American mink at Wiktionary
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The following habitats are found across the American mink distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Although superficially similar to the European mink, studies indicate the American mink's closest relative is the Siberian weasel (kolonok) of Asia. The American mink has been recorded to hybridize with European minks and polecats in captivity, though the hybrid embryos of the American and European minks are usually reabsorbed.
The award-winning GWCT Mink Raft was developed both as a means of detecting mink, and as a favourable trap site.
Mink can be distinguished from Otters by their smaller size, darker, almost black fur, and small white chin and throat.
Domestic mink, which are bred in fur farms, have 19.6% smaller brains, 8.1% smaller hearts, and 28.2% smaller spleens than wild mink. The feet are broad, with webbed digits. It generally has eight nipples, with one pair of inguinal teats and three pairs of abdominal teats. The adult male's penis is 2.2 in (5.6 cm) long, and is covered by a sheath. The baculum is well-developed, being triangular in cross section and curved at the tip.
Report sightings of mink to the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service.
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The American mink has a long body, which allows the species to enter the burrows of prey. Its streamlined shape helps it to reduce water resistance whilst swimming. The skull is similar to that of the European mink, but is more massive, narrower, and less elongated, with more strongly developed projections and a wider, shorter cranium. The upper molars are larger and more massive than those of the European mink. The dental formula is:
Mink escaped from fur farms in the 1950s and 1960s, and now breed across most of the country. They are active predators, feeding on anything they are big enough to catch, including our native Water Voles, which are now under threat of extinction. They hunt on the riverbanks and are good swimmers, enabling them to enter the water-line burrows of Water Voles. Mink are much more likely to be seen than the shy and secretive Otter.