European Mink

The European Mink, Mustela lutreola, is a European member of the Mustelidae family found in some regions of Spain, France, Romania, Sweden, Poland and the greater part of Russia. It is not found east of the Ural Mountains. Formerly it extended across all Europe, reaching Finland in the north, but it is now extinct in the major part of its ancient range. It is similar in appearance to the American Mink.

A trend in recent years has been the release of farmed minks into the wild by animal rights activists. The result of the introduction of the American Mink into the wild in Europe has been disastrous for the European Mink. It occupies almost the same ecological niche but is out competed by the larger and better-swimming American species. Attempts are now underway to introduce the European Mink to islands too far from the continent for American Mink to swim to, in an attempt to prevent the species from becoming extinct.

It is sometimes possible to distinguish one species from the other based on the fact that the American Mink usually lacks a large white patch on its upper lip, while the European Mink always possesses one. The European Mink always and the American Mink usually has a white spot on the lower lip, which continues in broken or unbroken fashion to form ventral markings. Since each is a different shape, it is possible to recognize individuals based on these ventral patterns. Fur also grows white over a scar and older mink tend to have more such patches, although absolute age is difficult to quantify without studying the animal from birth. In fur farms, mink are generally slaughtered after eight months, but can live several years in the wild (although mortality is high, especially among dispersing juveniles).

Female European Mink are roughly 1.3 lb (600 g) and males roughly 2 lb (900 g). Female American Mink are roughly 2 lb (900 g) and male American Mink roughly 3.5 lb (1,600 g), although weight can vary considerably. In general, since male American Mink continue to grow into the winter but females do not, sexual dimorphism is lower in that species as environmental conditions become more hostile.

PHOTO CREDIT: Nicolai Meyer