Vulnerability: least concern
Identification: easy (in the East Atlantic Arctic, there is nothing it can be confused with)
What is it?
The American mink is a small carnivore of the mustelids family, like the weasel, the ferret and the ermine. It has a long, thin body, short round ears and a long, bushy tail. Its fur is dark brown all year round with white markings on its throat and belly. Its body is about 40 cm long (without the tail) and weighs about 1 kg.
The mink is semi-aquatic and is most often found near water sources (rivers, lakes, marshes, coastal areas, etc.).
Where is it?
The mink is native to North America but was introduced to be farmed for its fur in Iceland, and some parts of continental Europe, Asia, and South America. In Europe, it is considered an invasive species at it is associated with declines in the populations of some endangered rodents. It is also linked with the decline of the European mink Mustela lutreola, which is critically endangered.
In Iceland, the population was exploding until 2003 when seabird populations started to decline because of a lack of food. It is now more manageable. In the Faroe Islands, a few individuals escaped from farms but were found and killed before they could establish a population.
- American mink is the most farmed animal in the world for its fur. This used to be common in Europe and the U.S., but with environmental, public health, and social concerns, the farming of animals for fur is being banned in many European countries and some U.S. states. China, on the other hand, is farming more and more minks.
- The american mink has special adaptations for freshwater: semi-webbed feet, and an oily coat that repels water.
- Dickie, G. (2018, June 5). The Mysterious Decline of Iceland’s American Invader. Hakai Magazine. https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/the-mysterious-decline-of-icelands-american-invader/
- Wicker, A. (2020, December 24). Is This the End of the Mink Coat? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/29/style/the-end-of-the-mink-coat.html
- Sidorovich, V., Kruuk, H., & Macdonald, D. W. (1999). Body size, and interactions between European and American mink (Mustela lutreola and M. vison) in Eastern Europe. Journal of Zoology, 248(4), 521–527. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1999.tb01051.x
- ANDRZEJ ZALEWSKI, MAGDALENA BARTOSZEWICZ, Phenotypic variation of an alien species in a new environment: the body size and diet of American mink over time and at local and continental scales, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 105, Issue 3, March 2012, Pages 681–693, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2011.01811.x