2004: Occurs in Belarus, France, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, and Spain. It may occur in Greece and the Ukraine. (IUCN 2004)
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The decline of European crayfish has been proposed as a factor in the drop in mink numbers, as minks are notably absent in the eastern side of the Urals, where crayfish are also absent. The decline in mink numbers has also been linked to the destruction of crayfish in Finland during the 1920s-1940s, when the crustaceans were infected with crayfish plague. The failure of the European mink to expand west to Scandinavia coincides with the gap in crayfish distribution.
A mink may excavate its own burrow, take one from a water vole or establish a den in a sheltered location such as a crevice or among tree roots. It often stores food.
The impact of the American mink on local European mink populations is being monitored and controlled to reduce the impact of this non-native species, and efforts have been made to remove American mink in some areas. Further studies are needed to better understand the effects of the American mink on the European mink (1).
Mustela lutreola have been trapped for commercial purposes. Between 1922 to 1924 in the Soviet Union an average of 49,850 pelts were collected. (Nowak 1999)
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)Sex: male: 323 days.
Populations of the European mink have suffered from a series of ecological and commercial threats (5). Habitat loss and degradation are serious threats to this sensitive species in parts of Europe (1) (8), where hydroelectric developments and water pollution have increased significantly over the past few decades (8).
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A century ago the European mink could be found throughout the European continent. It has declined due to hunting, habitat loss, water pollution and competition with the American mink, which was introduced into Europe in 1926 for fur farming. Currently, it is declining rapidly in Eastern Europe and probably exists in small populations in Spain and France.
As a result of these threats, the European mink population is thought to have declined by over 90 percent since the start of the 20th century, and is now small, fragmented, and continuing to decline (1).
Density (Russia): Porusya River (Novgorod region): 1968 - 1972: 0.5 - 0.8 individuals/km (0.8 - 1.3 individuals/mi) 1994: 0.05 - 0.2 individuals/km (0.08 - 0.3 individuals/mi) Loknya River basin (Pskov region): 1968 - 1972: 0.7 - 1.2 individuals/km (1.1 - 1.9 individuals/mi) Loknya and Puznya Rivers: 1994: 0.3 - 0.6 individuals/km (0.5 - 1.0 individuals/mi) (Sidorovich, V.E. et al. 1995)
Mink are semi-aquatic animals and inhabit densely shaded banks of lakeshores, rivers, streams and marshlands (7). They are rarely found more than 100 metres away from fresh water (8).
Competition between minks?! For many people, mink means fur. Originally, many European Minks lost their lives because of their fur. However, today, their biggest threat comes from competition for food and habitat with the American Mink. American Minks were introduced into Europe to increase the availability of higher quality furs. Some of these introduced minks became wild.
The European mink is smaller than its American relative, weighing up to 740 g (1.6 lb). It inhabits the densely vegetated banks of creeks, rivers and lakes. Its diet includes small mammals, frogs, molluscs, crabs, fish and insects. All mink species are mainly crepuscular and nocturnal. They are semiaquatic and swim and dive well. Their partly webbed feet are useful for hunting underwater.
The European mink is legally protected in all the countries in which it occurs. A species action plan is needed within the European Union to help successfully conserve this highly threatened mustelid and to aid collaboration between different conservation initiatives (1).
The European Mink likes the waterside and is a skilled swimmer. They have webbed feet and catch most of their food underwater.
Up to 440 g (0.9 lb) (female) or 740 g (1.6 lb) (male).
A century ago the European mink could be found throughout the European continent. By the middle 1970's, it occurred in the Soviet Union, Finland, eastern Poland, parts of the Balkans, Spain and western France. Currently, it is declining rapidly in Eastern Europe and probably exists in small populations in Spain and France. It is now extinct or greatly reduced over most of its former range (IUCN 2004).
The European mink is found in the Caucasus and Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005).
Competitive exclusion of the European mink by the American mink has been observed within 5 - 10 years on the upper Lovat River, a medium-sized river in Russia (Sidorovich, V.E. et al. 1995).
European mink are medium sized mustelids with a long body, short legs, and short tail. Total length for males is approximately 37.78 cm. Total length of females is 31.5 cm on average. During winter, European mink have a thick, water-repellent undercoat. Fur color is dark brown to black, and the underfur is usually brown. M. lutreola has both white lips and a white chin. Some European minks may have white spots on the throat, chest, and stomach area. (Kruska 1990, Youngman 1990).
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A century ago the European mink could be found throughout the European continent, but its populations have severely declined and it is now extinct or greatly reduced over most of its former range (7). It is known to survive only in small numbers in parts of Eastern Europe and some areas of Spain and France (6).
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
1. Profile (Picture) 2. Tidbits 3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline) 4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Density and Range) 5. References
The European mink (Mustela lutreola), also known as the Russian mink, is a semiaquatic species of mustelid native to Europe.
In addition to these measures, efforts need to be made to restore and maintain areas of suitable habitat for the European mink, and to designate them as protected areas. Existing protected areas also need to be improved and maintained (1).
They eat rodents like Voles and Muskrats, as well as crab and fish.
Mink may live within muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) huts and burrows. If these are abandoned the mink will simply move in, but they may also take over occupied huts, killing and eating the inhabitants (2). Mink will also make dens in natural cavities in stream banks, under trees and in drift piles, lining them with grass, leaves, fur or feathers (8).
Reasons for its decline include hunting, habitat loss, water pollution and competition with the American mink, which was introduced into Europe in 1926 for fur farming.
In the early 20th century, northern Europe underwent a warm climatic period which coincided with an expansion of the range of the European polecat. The European mink possibly was gradually absorbed by the polecat due to hybridisation. Also, competition with the polecat has greatly increased, due to landscape change favouring the polecat. There is one record of a polecat attacking a mink and dragging it to its burrow.
The European mink is a carnivore. It eats small mammals (especially the water vole), birds, frogs, molluscs, crabs, fish and insects.
Accidental mortality through pest control trapping, unintentional poisoning and vehicle collisions is particularly frequent in western parts of the European mink’s range. All mink species are also susceptible to Aleutian disease (1), a highly contagious virus which causes persistent infection and can often be lethal (9).
In Spain and France, the populations of European mink seem to be suffering from inbreeding, which could be addressed by the introduction of new, captive-bred individuals. A six-year government programme was introduced in France in 2010 for conservation breeding and reintroduction, while a number of other conservation initiatives are also in place in other countries in the European mink’s range (1).
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The female raises the young by herself. They are weaned at about 10 weeks.
Male and female European mink look very similar, but the males are up to 80 percent larger than the females (2). Young mink are similar in appearance to the adults (7).
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Authenticated (18/02/2005) by Christine Fournier of GREGE and François Moutou from the French Mammal Society (SFEPM).