Details of this species in England
Source: MacDonald and Harrington, 2003
Arrival Date: 1929
Introduction: Unintentional (accidentally)
Species Notes for this Location:
Mustela vison (American mink) were introduced to the United Kingdom for fur farming in 1929. They established feral populations on the mainland in the 1950s and 1960s, following releases and escapes from these farms, and have since rapidly colonised the waterways of Britain. Mink are now found at relatively high densities in south-west England, west Wales and west Scotland. They are not found in north-west Scotland or north-west Wales, but are spreading into East Anglia and east Yorkshire. In 1990, the mink population was estimated to be 110,000, with 9750 in Wales, 46,750 in England and 52,250 in Scotland (Harris et al., 1995; in Macdonald et al., undated), and since then the population is estimated to have declined by half to two-thirds (Strachan, pers. comm., in Macdonald et al., undated). It is possible that American mink have taken over the niche left vacant by the heavily persecuted polecat (Mustela putorius). The recent increase and expansion of otter (Lutra lutra populations in the UK could impact negatively on mink populations, as there is evidence that otters have a dramatic impact on mink densities and distribution, most likely due to interference competition (Bonesi and Macdonald, 2004). The average density of mink in Britain is about 0.35 mink/km of river, depending largely on availability of rabbits. Population modelling shows that the maximum number of mink which Britain could sustain without anthropogenic control is approximately 378,600 (Macdonald et al., undated).
A study undertaken in southern Britain revealed that the main prey item in the diet of mink is rabbits, followed by fish, small mammals, and coots and moorhens (Rallidae family) (Ferreras and MacDonald, 1999).
Disease transmission: There is evidence of Aleutian disease in feral American mink in the UK. Yamaguchi and Macdonald (2001) found antibodies to Aleutian disease virus (ADV) in 51.9% of a sample of mink in southern England (in Hammershoj, 2004).
Economic/Livelihoods: Mustela vison impact on salmonid fisheries, trout farms, salmon farms and commercial carp ponds (especially exotic koi carp) (Macdonald et al., undated).
Predation: Mustela vison impact on ground-nesting birds in freshwater systems and in the marine environment on offshore islands. Burrow-nesting shelduck are vulnerable to the arrival of mink on the islands of Loch Lomond, as are puffins and shearwaters (Bignal, 1978). The decline of white-clawed crayfish
(see Austropotamobius pallipes in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) may be accelerated by mink predation (Smal, 1991). Mink may affect the numbers of the common scoter (see Melanitta nigra in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) by predation (Underhill et al., 1998; in Cranswick, undated).
American mink are thought to be one of the main factors contributing to the decline of the European water vole (see Arvicola terrestris in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) in the UK. Water voles are an important species in the diet of colonising mink (MacDonald and Harrington, 2003). In southern Britain, mink appear to negatively impact on coot coot (see Fulica atra in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) populations (Ferreras and MacDonald, 1999).
Last Modified: 13/03/2006 12:34:08 p.m.