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Wildlife Wednesday: European Mink

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Wildlife Wednesday: European Mink

They’re fluffy and curious and they eat bugs. What’s not to like about them?

They’re fluffy and curious and they eat bugs. What’s not to like about them?

On this Wildlife Wednesday, we learn about the European mink.

Habitat

These furry, ferret-like creatures can currently be found splashing in rivers and dashing through streams in France, Spain, Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine.

Historically, their range spread through most of the European continent (with the exception of Britain), from the Netherlands to Serbia and Croatia to Finland.

Trivia

  • European mink are Mother Nature’s way of showing us that size just doesn’t matter all that much. Despite their small stature—females are only about 1 ft (30 cm) long, and males aren’t much bigger—these minute mammals are accomplished hunters.
  • And what is it that they hunt? Well, to a European mink, a good meal might include water voles and other small mammals, birds, frogs, crabs, fish, and of course, insects.
  • These petite predators are also well adapted for a life of hunting in cold European climates. Their partially webbed paws are built for swimming, diving, and hunting in the water and their thick, dark fur is naturally water repellant.
  • Talk about overbearing neighbours! European mink live in dens and burrows and can make their own, but they’re also known to take over someone else’s home—with that someone still in it! Alternatively, they might just take over someone else’s abandoned burrow.

Why are they threatened?

Unfortunately, cute faces and furry bodies can’t seem to save these little minks from a sharp population decline—their remaining population is expected to drop another 80 percent over the next 10 years—and an IUCN listing of “critically endangered.”

And the cause, unfortunately, is us. The early 1900s saw the mink being hunted and trapped for their fur and, a little later, saw huge habitat losses and disturbances. When the decline in mink numbers was finally noticed, the fur-trapping industries imported huge numbers of the European minks’ larger cousin, the American mink, to fill the gap. In the former Soviet Union, as many as 4.9 million mink were raised in 1973.

The fur farms’ foreign escapees, which are quite a bit more able to adapt to new environments, quickly became competition for their European cousins, keeping European mink numbers from ever recovering.

These days, European mink groups remain in isolated pockets throughout their current range. Threats to these local populations include poisons meant for other animals, road dangers, and hybridization with American mink.

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