American Mink (Mustela vison)

The American Mink is a harmful invasive species which has decimated local populations of birds, fish and water voles in areas of the UK. Mink are often mistaken for Otter but are smaller with a more pointed head and wider tails. They have a long slim body typical of their animal family (Mustelidae) with glossy dark fur; they are excellent swimmers with semi webbed feet which also leads people to mistake them for native otters.

They solitary animals who normally mate at the beginning of the year with a  female producing around 5 young once a year, mortality is high and life expectancy short in the wild although a captive mink can live up to 12 years. Some Mink have been released due to animal rights activist activity but this has often caused damage to local animal populations and the farmed mink are poorly equipped for survival in the wild with smaller hearts, brains and other organs than wild mink. Many of these released minks die quickly but those that survive more than 3 months quickly adapt to the wild environment.

Mink are intelligent animals with comparable ability to that of a domestic cat or ferret with an ability to recognise different shapes in order ability normally associated with higher primates. Although they can appear as cute and have been bred in captivity for over 100 years domestic mink have been bred for size and colour not to be tame. If someone has the skill and time they can be tamed but are still an aggressive animal with a powerful bite.


Like otters they favour wooded areas near natural water but unlike otters they do not dig lairs normally taking over dens left by other animals. It is native to North America, Canada and Alaska but has thrived as an escapee from commercial fur farms in Europe and lacking any natural predators has increased in population. In North America they are preyed upon by wolves and great horned owls. In recent years in the UK otter populations have increased reclaiming areas from the Mink as although the otters eat a more limited range of prey they are better aquatic hunters than the mink.


Mink are active hunters eating most small birds, especially water fowl, eggs, frogs and small mammals; they will also take on fairly large fresh water fish as well as rabbits and snakes given the opportunity. They will take whatever prey is easiest whether in the water or on land and mainly hunt at night, they do not hibernate and hunt all year round. When food is scare mink have been known to kill and eat each other or just drive weaker mink out of hunting areas so they starve to death