Mink (TAN02)


Feb 2005.

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Mink (Mustela vison) found in Britain are descendants of animals that originally escaped from fur farms. The species is native to North America; however, following successful breeding in the wild, mink are now established throughout England and Wales. Control is often necessary because of the damage that they can cause to wildlife, fisheries and game and domestic birds.


Most feral mink are dark brown with a white chin patch but other colour forms, from white to almost black, may also be found. In size and shape, they resemble ferrets.

Adult males average 1.2kg (2 lbs.) in weight and are about 600mm (24") from the nose to the tip of the tail. Females are only half this weight and about 500mm (20") in length.


Mink are mainly nocturnal but individuals are sometimes active during the day, particularly in very  cold weather. They usually live near water and they prefer places with dense bankside vegetation and numerous old trees, which provide den sites. An individual will have several dens in its territory; these can be in holes in trees, in rabbit burrows or in gaps in rock or walls. Mink swim well but may move away from water to forage, and they can climb trees easily. An established adult male's territory is usually around 2.4km (1 miles) of waterway, while a female uses slightly less.

Mink take a wide range of prey including fish, birds and mammals.

  • Fish are usually an important part of the diet; both game and coarse species are eaten.
  • Birds are taken at all times of the year; young birds and those on the nest are particularly vulnerable. Waterfowl such as ducks, moorhens and coot are taken most frequently, although mink living near the coast will feed on seabirds and waders.
  • Rabbits are important prey. Where rabbits are scarce, voles and rats may be the most common mammals eaten.

Mating takes place between late February and the end of March. The young are born in late April or May and are weaned at eight weeks. They stay with their mother until late summer when the family gradually disperses; individuals may then become solitary. Young mink can travel up to about 50km (30 miles) during the autumn and winter before settling in a new location.

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