About Mink

American mink (Neovison vison) are a member of the Mustelid family whose other members include weasels, otters and badgers.

The American Mink

The American Mink

There are two species of mink, the European mink and the American mink. It is the latter which is now present across much of Britiain, having escaped or been released from farms where mink where bred to provide fur.

Mink have adapted very well to living in Britain and have spread across most of the country. They are well adapted for living near water and are found both along freshwater and at the coast. They eat a large range of food including birds, small mammals, amphibians, fish and crustacean.

Mink are a particular problem in areas where there are ground-nesting birds, especially on islands where there are no native predators. Mink will eat the eggs and chicks, and often will attack the adults too. They will attack birds as large as gannets! (gannet photo) Many of these birds are rare or protected species (such as red throated divers and terns) or are economically important to Scottish communities (grouse & pheasant).

They will take small mammals including water voles, a species which is becoming increasingly rare across Britain. Water voles have a few ways to escape native predators, such as diving into water or hiding in their burrows. However as mink are good swimmers and female mink can fit down a water vole burrow the voles have no protection against mink.

Mink eating seafood

Mink eating seafood

Salmon and sea trout are economically important in Scotland, both for the angling industry and for fish farms (predominantly salmon). Stocks of both fish have undergone severe declines on the west coast in the past 30 years and although these were not caused by mink there is now an added predation pressure on an already dwindling population. Mink are very inquisitive and like to explore strange structures in the water. They are a common sight around fish farms.

Mink do not hibernate and are active throughout the year. There are some times of year when they are more active, making them easier to track/trap.:

In early Feb-April the breeding season starts, with males roaming long distances in search of females. Once the females have mated they tend to make a den and stay where they won’t be disturbed, whilst the males are off looking for other mates.

The kits are born in June, and will start to come out of their dens in July. The young start to disperse in August-October and this is a good time to catch females and young mink.