Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

American Mink - Mustela vison

Minks are solitary animals and are active both day and night, but will be mainly be seen at night. They are not native to Britain but were brought here from North America in the late 1920’s to be bred commercially for their fur. There have probably been escapee mink in the wild since that time and their numbers are increasing in Wiltshire, which has caused a problem for native species, such as the Water Vole, upon which it feeds.

American Mink, WWT/ Darin Smith


Habitat

Usually they are found near water; rivers, lakes, streams, ditches and on marshes. Their dens are normally near scrub or tree cover near water. They can spend some time away from water and can even live near urban areas.

Description

Mink are dark brown to black in colour and about the same size as a cat with a furry, straight tail (which makes up to half their body length), white marks on the lower jaw, lip and sometimes on the throat which distinguishes it from the European Mink (Mustela lutreiola). They can be seen year round, but are mainly active February to April and August to October. An adult male mink is larger and heavier than the female. Both male and female are very agile climbers and swimmers.

Biology

Mink are semi-aquatic predators able to hunt both aquatic and terrestrial prey. They are nocturnal, opportunistic predators that take whatever is available including birds, young rabbits, small mammals and fish and Water Voles. They have a very acute sense of smell that they use to locate their prey and sense danger. Mink are generalist predators focusing on what ever prey is most available and easily captured.

They are usually solitary animals. Mating occurs from early February through early April; males and females may have more than one partner. After one year mink can breed, and may have more than one litter in a season, but breeding behaviour in the wild is little known. The young are born in early May nests in existing burrows by the waterside often among tree roots, or in old rabbit burrows.

Control

In areas where Otters have made a recovery, Mink have been declining. Release of American Mink is illegal under Schedule 9 (Part I) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981



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