Taxonomy

Mustela vison | American Mink | Minc Mheiriceánach

Distribution

Status

Conservation status

Least Concern

Legal status

Third Schedule listed species under Regulations 49 & 50 in the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011. (Note: Regulation 50 not yet enacted). The Fur Farming (Prohibition) (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 made it illegal to conduct fur farming in Northern Ireland. Listed as a schedule 9 species under Articles 15 & 15A of the Wildlife Order (Northern Ireland) 1985 (Article 15A not yet enacted).

First reported in the wild

1961

Invasiveness

Invasive species - risk of High Impact

Irish status

Established

Introduction pathways - 1

Escape from Confinement

Introduction pathways subclass - 1

Fur farms

Invasive score

20

NAPRA Ireland risk assessed

No

Species Biology

Identification

Semi aquatic, medium sized mustelid (family of mammalian carnivores including badgers, otters, pine marten, stoat and the invasive feral ferret), generally dark brown appearing almost black, much smaller than an otter but larger than a stoat or pine marten (Dunstone & Macdonald, 2008). Slightly bushy tail, approximately half the length of the body, generally has a white chin patch (not to be confused with the pale throat patch of a pine marten) (Dunstone & MacDonald, 2008). Sexually dimorphic (males larger than females) which may be linked to niche partitioning, (males and females feeding on different prey items) (Thom et al., 2004)

Ecology

Mink tend to have local scale impacts on breeding birds, fish and crayfish populations in its European range (Bonesi & Palazon, 2007) with the main species affected by mink in Ireland are waterfowl, island-nesting birds and terns (Sterna spp.) (Small, 1991 in Bonesi & Palazon, 2007). Mink populations seem to be declining in some parts of Europe (Bonesi & Palazon, 2007) possibly related to local recoveries of otter populations (Bonesi et al., 2006; Bonesi & MacDonald, 2004). Mink populations tend to be positively correlated with crayfish populations (Wolffe et al., 2015), so the potential introduction of invasive crayfish to Ireland could have the knock on effect of increasing mink densities (Melero et al., 2014).

Habitat

Coastal, Inland surface waters; Mires, bogs & fens; Heath, scrubland & tundra; Woodland, forest and other wooded land; Estuaries

Reproduction

Polygynous, females maintain territories for the breeding season with males tending to disperse in search of receptive females, breeding season March - April, with 1 litter of 4-6 kits born in May (Dunstone & MacDonald, 2008; Yamaguchi & Macdonald, 2003).

Pathway and vector description

Fur farming of mink in Ireland began in the early 1950s and by 1969 there were an estimated 125,000 mink in captivity in Ireland (Deane & O'Gorman, 1969). In 1961 and again in 1965 approximately 15 mink escaped from a fur farm near Omagh and by 1969 there was a breeding population on the River Stule, Co Tyrone (Deane & O'Gorman, 1969). Subsequent escapes likely followed the same pattern as these early colonists and mink are now widespread in Ireland.

Mechanism of impact

Competition, Predation

Broad environment

Terrestrial

Habitat description

Generally associated with aquatic habitats, favouring riparian habitats with abundant bankside cover but may occur away from rivers where suitably prey is abundant (Dunstone & MacDonald, 2008, Halliwell & MacDonald, 1996). In Ireland, mink appear to be more plastic in their habitat requirements and were found to occur in agricultural landscapes, bog, moor, heath and mire, broad leaved woodland and scrub (Roy et al., 2009). Studies of mink in Scotland suggest that they are more likely to use marine habitats during control programs (Bodey et al., 2010).

Species group

Vertebrate

Native region

North America

Similar species

OtterFerretPine martenStoat

Distribution

World distribution(GBIF)

Irish distribution

Established - Widespread & Common.

Native distribution

Native to North America range extends from Alaska and northern Canada down to mid-west of America (does not occur in dry parts of the USA e.g. southern California, Texas or Arizona, or into Mexico) (Dunstone & MacDonald, 2008).

Temporal change

Date of first record category

1961-1970

Fifty year date category

1951-2000

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2018

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How can you help

Report any sightings to the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

Further information

Delivering Alien Invasive Species In Europe (DAISIE) project list the American mink as one of the 100 Worst Invaders in Europe.

References

Publications

Bodey, T. W., Bearhop, S., Roy, S. S., Newton, J., & McDonald, R. A. (2010). Behavioural responses of invasive American mink Neovison vison to an eradication campaign, revealed by stable isotope analysis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 47(1), 114-120.

Bonesi, L., & Macdonald, D. W. (2004). Impact of released Eurasian otters on a population of American mink: a test using an experimental approach. Oikos, 106(1), 9-18.

Bonesi, L., Strachan, R., & Macdonald, D. W. (2006). Why are there fewer signs of mink in England? Considering multiple hypotheses. Biological Conservation, 130(2), 268-277.

Bonesi, L., & Palazon, S. (2007). The American mink in Europe: status, impacts, and control. Biological Conservation, 134(4), 470-483.

Dunstone, N. & MacDonald, D.W. (2008) American mink Mustel vision In: Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th edition, Harris S. & Yalden, D.W. (eds). The Mammal Society, Southampton.

Melero, Y., Palazón, S., & Lambin, X. (2014). Invasive crayfish reduce food limitation of alien American mink and increase their resilience to control. Oecologia, 174(2), 427-434.

Roy, S., Reid, N. & McDonald, R.A. (2009) A review of mink predation and control in Ireland. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 40. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Smal, C. M. (1991). Population studies on feral American mink Mustela vison in Ireland. Journal of Zoology, 224(2), 233-249.

Thom, M. D., Harrington, L. A., & Macdonald, D. W. (2004). Why are American mink sexually dimorphic? A role for niche separation. Oikos, 105(3), 525-535.

Wolff, P. J., Taylor, C. A., Heske, E. J., & Schooley, R. L. (2015). Habitat selection by American mink during summer is related to hotspots of crayfish prey. Wildlife Biology, 21(1), 9-17.

Yamaguchi, N., & Macdonald, D. W. (2003). The burden of co-occupancy: intraspecific resource competition and spacing patterns in American mink, Mustela vison. Journal of Mammalogy, 84(4), 1341-1355.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Global Invasive Species Database

CABI Datasheet

DAISIE Factsheet

Images