European Mink

Mustela lutreola

Wild European Mink

Overview

The European Mink, or Mustela Lutreola, from the genus Mustela which includes minks, weasels and shrews, is one of the most endangered species in Europe. This mainly nocturnal mammal was a favourite of fur trappers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Now only found in parts of Eastern Europe, Spain, and France, the European Mink has been listed as vulnerable since 1988. It was listed as endangered in 1994 and critically endangered in 2007.

Current & Future Status

The European Mink populations have dwindled by 90% since 1926. They only exist in four distinct areas:

Spain: 500-1,000 individuals

France: several hundred individuals

Danube Delta (Romania): 70 individuals

Russia: The mink is now extinct in 40 of the 61 regions (roughly 66%). It is expected that the mink will become extinct in 28 of those regions within 10 years.

Did You Know?

~The European Mink and the American Mink are not of the same origin. They evolved convergently not together.


~Although their fur has evolved to become water resistant, the European Mink's eyesight is incredibly poor under water.


~The American Mink was more popular to fur trappers because of their larger size, but European Minks were still hunted into near extinction.


~The European Mink is differentiated from the American Mink by its smaller size and the band of white around it's nose and mouth.

Threats

Habitat Loss

The main threat to the European Mink is habitat destruction. Because of the specialized habitat of land and water, the European Mink is especially vulnerable to the human touch. A prime example comes from the hurried industrialization of Russia, once the area with the biggest population of mink. As Russia industrialized, the habitat of the European Mink was destroyed at a quick rate. Efforts were made to transplant the mink into new territory, but because of their sensitivity, the mink did not take to the transplant.

Competition

Another threat to the European Mink is the introduction of an alien species to Europe, the American Mink during the 1920s and 1930s. The American Mink and the European Mink compete for resources and food. Because of its larger size, the American Mink often out-competes the European Mink.

Over-Exploitation

A common target for fur trappers, the European Mink was targeted and exploited during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Although the American Mink was introduced for fur trappers in the 1920s, because the European Mink is a solitary creature with a short life span, the population takes much longer to replenish.

Conservation

Taking Action

The Department of Wildlife in Vienna, Austria and The Department of Zoology and Anthropology in Olomouc, Czech Republic have teamed up to study and conserve the European Mink and its habitat in the Danube Delta. In order to this this, they plan to:

1. Map the distribution of the European mink in the Delta and adjacent areas to identify its actual distribution. In addition, it is necessary to clarify the presence and eventual distribution of the American mink in the area.

2. Analyse the distribution of the European mink in context with habitat types in order to identify critical habitat requirements.

3. Quantify basic ecological features such as diet, resting sites, use of space, competition within other carnivores and human caused reasons of mortality.

4. Identify the genetics of the Danube Delta population in comparison with the other populations.

5. Public relations and education campaign.

6. Formulate a science based action plan for the necessary steps to allow the long term survival of this population and doing this contributing significantly to the world wide survival of the species in the wild.


This project began in 1999, just five years after the European Mink was declared endangered. For more information, visit http://www.personal.psu.edu/~users/v/x/vxg901/publ/ddiannals2001_124-129.pdf


Laws

Generally speaking, European Laws on fur trapping are stronger than the United States, but only one European country, Austria, has banned the practice. At this time, too many countries value fur trapping as a part of their economy to ban the practice of fur trapping.

Impact

Ecosystem

Because the European Mink is a solitary animal, they do not stay in one place for very long. Because of that, the European Mink often competes with other river-based mammals for shelter and territory. Beavers are prime targets. The European Mink will often run a beaver away and take over its den. As the European Mink population has declined, there has been a slight increase in the beaver population.