The European mink is one of Europe’s most endangered mammals! It is also one of the worlds cutest faces that we must at all costs make every effort to keep alive and well!

European Mink are found in many territories in the wild. They can be seen scuttling around in Spain, France, Romania, Ukraine, Estonia, and Russia, and is a member of the Mustelidae family.

European mink : visón europeo : Mustela lutreola

Only a couple of thousand of European mink are thought to survive in enclaves in northwest Spain (Navarra, La Rioja, País Vasco and Castilla y León (northern Soria and NE Burgos). Reintroduction schemes are underway.

There are currently reckoned to be an average of half a million mink on Spanish fur farms. The Mink needs cool temperatures to grow a healthy and silky coat. The first animal escape from a Spanish fur farm did not occur until 1958. The mink quickly managed to gain a foothold in parts of Cantabria, Galicia, parts of Castilla and Valencia/Murcia . Further escapes have extended the species down the Ebro Valley and into Catalonia, where the last recorded escape took place in 1983. A fire at a fur farm killed thousands, but a few, enough, managed to flee into the countryside.

It has been scientifically found that Mink first entered Europe from America at the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age. The two species are believed to have diverged only in the last ten thousand years, and therefore remain remarkably similar in a number of ways and differ mostly in colouring, and this is dependant on habitat and climatatic changes. European Mink have slender, flexible bodies, bushy tails, and webbed paws. They have a sleek summer coat, and a darker, denser winter coat, which is better suited to low temperatures. Their eyesight is generally poor, and is much like a mole in this respect. They rely heavily on their superior sense of smell while hunting. The fur of the European Mink is normally blackish brown with a distinctive small band of white fur around the upper and lower lips and occasionally on the throat. The Mink are bred in fur farms and there, sadly, only live to about the age of 18 months, but in the wild reach some several years of age, but the mortality rate however is high. Apart from capture for mink coat trade, death is also due to their poor ability to perceive danger, but in a good case scenario they live from about 6 years in the wild and up to 12 years in captivity. A major reason for the European Mink’s decline is commercial trapping for its incredibly subtle and smooth fur, which it is less valuable than the fur of the American Mink. The introduction in 1926 of the American Mink, which is found to be a far larger bodied species, has created severe competition for the European Mink, with regard to available food and habitats, and this has reduced this native species’ population significantly.

In France, yet another threat comes from unintentional but very efficient poisoning and trapping as a result of efforts to control (Myocastor coypus) populations in the area. Pest control trapping and accidental mortality through vehicle collisions, sadly also affects the ever diminishing populations.

The European Mink is a solitary animal and lives close to fresh water. Their ranges up a fresh river-bed are often a distance of several kilometers and they defend that territory with a combination of great zeal in physical aggression, verosity and of prolific scent marking. Mink are semi-aquatic animals and inhabit densely shaded banks of lakeshores, rivers, streams and marshlands. They are rarely found more than 100 meters away from fresh water. One way to find Mink is to look for muskrat huts and burrows. If they are abandoned, the Mink will simply move in, but they may also take over occupied huts, killing and eating inhabitants. Mink will also make dens in natural cavities in stream banks, under trees and in drift piles, lining them with grass, leaves, fur or feathers.

To mate, they will travel great distances and both males and females will mate with several mates duruing the mating season. The breeding season, is from February to March, when they seek out mates, using a repertoire of sounds from hisses and screams to chuckling calls. The female gives birth to between six and seven youngsters, who are completely naked, and completely blind. The pregancy lasts from five to ten weeks. The Mink babies are known as kits. Kits are weaned at eight weeks and leave the den at four months, to start homes of their own, and are sexually mature at breeding season the following year. In recent times the trend emerged to release the mink from the farms into the wild to integrate with the American mink, its cousin. Sadly though, this introduction has proved to be a disaster for the slighter smaller bodied European Mink that is out-competed by the American Mink which is better at swimming. Size and weight, outweighs the smaller variety in a fight, which thus means that there is a lack of available teritory.

Attempts now are under way in most European communities to introduce the European Mink into islands, away from the continents, where these animals can then thrive on their own and thus prevent extinction of this species. The endangered populations of European Mink (Mustela lutreola) have shown a large decline of over 80% of their natural range and the species may be regarded as one of the most endangered mammals in the world The animal is classified as follows: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chortada class Mammalia Order Carnivoria Family Mustelidae genus Mustela Total length 35-58 cms weight female 600 gramms male 1000 graqms

Classified as Endangered (EN A1ace) on the IUCN Red List 2004, and listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention.

In 1994 the IUCN upgraded the status of this species from Vulnerable to Endangered In the early 1990’s an international conservation programme was set up by several partners across Europe (Ministry of the Environment, French Mammal Society, GREGE, ONC, University of Barcelona and Government of Catalonia.) The programme’s objective was to find priorities for a conservation plan by characterizing the bio-ecology of the species, analyzing causes for its decline and assessing the genetic variability of western populations

Mustelid Specialist Group (1996). Mustela lutreola. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Listed as Endangered (EN A1ace v2.3)