Animal Info - European Mink

Mustela lutreola

Status: Endangered


Contents

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


Profile

Pictures: European Mink #1 (38 Kb JPEG) and European Mink #2 (42 Kb JPEG) (Belarus Natl. Acad. Sci.); European Mink #3 (19 Kb JPEG) (Univ. Tartu)

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.

Mink species are solitary and territorial. A mink may excavate its own burrow, take one from a water vole or establish a den in a sheltered location. The female usually has 4 or 5 young per litter.

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.


Tidbits

*** Male American mink can mate with female European mink earlier than can males of the same species. The embryos are always resorbed before birth, but it means that the European mink females are unable to breed. (Oryx 1991)


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

  • 1988 - 1993: Vulnerable
  • 1994: Endangered
  • 1996 - 2004: Endangered (Criteria: A1ace) (Population Trend: Decreasing) (IUCN 2004)

Countries Where the European Mink Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Belarus, France, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, and Spain. It may occur in Greece and the Ukraine. (IUCN 2004)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

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).

Distribution Map (light area: past distribution; dark area: present distribution) (33 Kb JPEG) (Spec. Cons. Found.)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

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.

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).


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

Up to 440 g (0.9 lb) (female) or 740 g (1.6 lb) (male).

Habitat:

The European mink inhabits the densely vegetated banks of creeks, rivers and lakes. It is rarely found more than 100 m (330') from fresh water. (Nowak & Paradiso 1983)

The European mink is found in the Caucasus and Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005).  

Age to Maturity:

10 months.

Gestation Period:

5 - 10 weeks (the variation may result from delayed implantation in some females).

Birth Season:

Mating takes place from February - March. Births occur in April and May.

Birth Rate:

A female has 2 - 7 young per litter, usually 4 or 5.

Early Development:

The female raises the young by herself. They are weaned at about 10 weeks.

Dispersal:

Dispersal occurs at 3 - 4 months of age. Males disperse farther than females, as much as 50 km (31 mi) or more.

Maximum Age:

At least 6 years (12 years in captivity).

Diet:

The European mink is a carnivore. It eats small mammals (especially the water vole), birds, frogs, molluscs, crabs, fish and insects.

Behavior:

Mink are mainly crepuscular and nocturnal. They are semiaquatic and swim and dive well. Their partly webbed feet are useful for hunting underwater. However, their eyesight is not well adapted to seeing underwater. Mink rely heavily upon their sense of smell when foraging for terrestrial prey.

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.

Social Organization:

Mink are solitary and territorial.

Density and Range:

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)

Range:

  • A mink generally spends the summer in an area of 15 - 20 hectares (37 - 50 acres), but there may be extensive fall and winter movements to locate swift, nonfrozen streams (Nowak & Paradiso 1983).

References

Belarus Natl. Acad. Sci., Burton & Pearson 1987, Cons. Intl. 2005, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Macdonald 1984, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Oryx 1991, Schreiber et al. 1989, Sidorovich, V.E. et al. 1995, Spec. Cons. Found., Univ. Tartu, Valicenti 1997


Top of Page | Search This Site

Home | Rarest Mammals | Species Index | Species Groups Index | Country Index | Links


Last modified: March 11, 2005;

1999 - 2014 Animal Info. Endangered animals of the world. SJ Contact Us.