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American mink facts

The American mink (neovison vison, formerly mustela vison)

The American mink Neovison vison is a semi-aquatic carnivore that first became established in the wild in Britain in the 1930s. Initially the population developed from animals escaping from fur farms, and throughout the second half of the twentieth century it spread through most of mainland UK. Mink arrived on the western isles as a result of the establishment of fur farms in the 1950s, with feral animals recorded on Lewis by 1969. Expanding southwards mink had reached South Uist by 2001.

A proficient hunter with a varied diet chiefly consisting of birds, small mammals fish and amphibians, the mink will also take shellfish and available crustaceans. Some species of birds particularly those which are colony ground nesters, such as arctic terns, are particularly vulnerable to mink predation.

After a spring mating, females give birth to litters of between 3 and 7 kits in June. Kits are independent and start dispersing from mid August. Mink can live for up to five years, however 50% of young animals die in there first year. As an introduced predator, mink have had an adverse impact on the native biodiversity of the western Isles. Given their tendency to predate ground nesting birds there continued presence poses a particular threat to the many internationally important populations of migrants and residents. Mink have also impacted on economic activities such as fish farming, crofting, sports angling and game shooting. Their presence has impacted indirectly on a number of tourism based industries. Tourism is increasingly important to the local economy, and in total contributes almost £50 million per annum to it†

Species under threat

The spread of mink and their continued presence across the Hebrides acts as a threat to many bird populations. Amongst the species considered to be at risk are the ARCTIC, Common and Little TERN, the black and red-throated diver and the dunlin, corncrake and ringed plover. In the almost tree-less environment of the Outer Isles introduced predators like the mink and ferret will cause lasting damage. If left unchecked they have the potential to destroy in a handful of decades that which has been built up over centuries.

Last updated on Tuesday 4th April 2017 at 09:44 AM. Click here to comment on this page