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The American Minx

Updated on September 29, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

The American mink Mustela vision belongs to the family of mammals known as the Mustelidae which includes the weasel and stoat. As far as many conservationists are concerned the name American minx is a more apt description of this alien species which finds easy prey among the fauna of the U.K..

The mammal has a body length of between 30-27cm {1foot -19inches} with a tail of approximately 12-23 cm about half its body length. The fur is glossy black-brown. The legs are short and its feet are partially webbed. The snout is blunt and the small rounded ears are almost hidden by the fur. The mink has white hairs on its chin and throat which distinguishes it from the polecat which is of a similar shape and size. The neck is muscular the body slender and sinuous. The males are slightly larger than the females and weigh twice as heavy.

 

Mink with fish

 This handsome creature is a carnivore which causes devastation when it gains access to fish farms. The photograph must not be re-used without  the permission of John McAvoy.
This handsome creature is a carnivore which causes devastation when it gains access to fish farms. The photograph must not be re-used without the permission of John McAvoy. | Source

History of the American Mink in the U.k.

The animals were first imported to Britain in the 1920s to colonise fur "farms", However, this was just the humble beginnings. It was soon discovered that the animals bred well in captivity and the trade became a lucrative money making venture to satisfy the fashion fad of the time. The pelts were taken and made in to mink coats which seemed to satisfy the vanity of the privileged.

They expanded rapidly during the 1950s and records reveal that by the 1960s there were over 700 fur "farms" in the U.K. The number rose to a staggering 250,000 at the peak of this business. Breeders discovered that if they could produce an animal with whitish or silvery fur the money obtained from them was much greater than those of the ordinary chocolate coloured fur. Thus many animals had varying fur colour. Any mink seen in the wild with a variant fur colour can be traced back to their ancestors which were bred in captivity when these farms were in the prime.

With so many animals being kept in cages {many of which were not fit for purpose or at least sub standard} it was only a matter of time before some escaped into the countryside. Because these animals spent their lives cooped up in cages the "farms" became a target of animal rights action groups. The action included breaking into these "farms" and liberating the animals from captivity and releasing them into the countryside..

This well intentioned but ill thought out action played a major part in the mink getting established into the countryside. Some of these animals were easily recaptured. They had spent their lives in a cage and had no idea how to survive outside its confines. Others, however, were more adaptable and soon found out there was easy prey for them out there in the wider countryside. Ever since conservationists and other wildlife organisations have struggled to control their numbers and restore the imbalance they have caused to the eco -system of our waterways and wetlands.

 

Courtesy of Andy Holt. Mink foraging on a canal bank in the UK

What Are the Problems ?

The American mink in the U.K. have all descended from domesticated animals and are larger than the native species found in America. They are very skillful hunters and can hunt just as well on land as they can in the water. Thus they are twice as dangerous to many animals. Their webbed feet make them excellent swimmers and they are capable of hunting under the waters surface in the manner of an otter a larger related native species. In the water they take fish {as the above photograph demonstrates } frogs and crayfish. If they gain access to fish "farms" their actions can be devastating. On land they will take birds especially coots and moorhens and/or their eggs, snakes,mice, voles and their favourite prey the rabbit. In fact they will take any creature they can catch.

They do not hibernate and are active throughout the year. In their native habitat they are in the main nocturnal, but here in the U.K. they are active day and night, although they spend a lot of time safely a sleep in their chosen resting place. The mink do not make a burrow but content themselves with the burrows made by rabbits and other creatures or rest between roots of trees.

One mammal which has been devastated by the introduction of the mink is the hapless water vole. This harmless,vegetarian animal has no defence against this ruthless killer. The numbers of the water vole have been depleted so severely that they are now one of the most endangered animals in Britain. Water voles are comparatively slow swimmers which make them easy targets. Even if they escape in time to their burrows the mink can follow them with ease in other words there is no escape for them.

The European Water Vole

The watervole has been devastated by the introduction of the mink. This hapless vegetarian has no defence against the rufless killer.
The watervole has been devastated by the introduction of the mink. This hapless vegetarian has no defence against the rufless killer.

Mink Are Here to Stay

 Mink have one litter per year and after mating the parents lead separate lives the male taking no part in the rearing of his young. There is one irrefutable fact about these introduced aliens is that they are here to stay.

                                                   MINK AND THE U.K. LAW

The American mink is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with respect to England Wales and Scotland. As such it is illegal to release or allowthem into the wild.

Being classed as a pest species they have no legal protection. It is legal to trap and kill them providing it is done humanely in accordancewith the Wild Mammals {Protection} Act  1996.

Top.Coot,below eggs and nest of the Moorhen

COOTS ARE OFTEN TARGETED BY MINK
COOTS ARE OFTEN TARGETED BY MINK | Source
The eggs such as these moorhen eggs make a tasy meal for the mink
The eggs such as these moorhen eggs make a tasy meal for the mink

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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      tina,

      so sorry to hear about your losses. I wish you success in getting rid of them.

    • profile image

      tina 

      3 years ago

      i have just recently heard of them being in my area in Michigan..after they have killed all of my hens and ducks..about 25 total. now need to find a way to get rid of them so i can get my other chicks outside and not in house

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      rinana, Hi, they certainly are voracious predators. Hope they slink away before they do any harm to your animals. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • profile image

      riana 

      3 years ago

      I think that they are very horrible creatures because I saw a hole bunch of them on the other side of the river eating a dead bird and I live right next to that river ... plus they tried to attack my dog . So I am worried that they will come and eat my ducklings and groupings.

    • profile image

      riana 

      3 years ago

      I think that they are very dangerous because I saw a hole bunch of them at the river where I live and they killed a bird and attacked my dog and I am worried that they will come and eat my ducks and groupings

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      4 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      DDE,

      Hi Devika, thank you so much for your comments, coming from an excellent writer such as yourself they are even more appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I often heard about the American Minx but never read about it until now. A well written and explained hub on this topic, you shared valuable information and you are good at what you do.

    • profile image

      Laura 

      5 years ago

      i think people should STOP killing and wearing these beautiful animals....

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 

      5 years ago

      This is another story of man's greed and vanity. It is true that when man tampers with the delicate balance of nature all of nature suffers. Thanks for sharing this great hub. Rating it up all the way.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi PeggyW Thank you for your visit always nice to hear from you. The mink are a conservation concern here. { not the minks fault, yet again man is to blame} Best wishes to you.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      They are cute little critters! Too bad the mink is causing such devastation in the UK. So often that happens when a species not native is introduced. Very interesting hub! Thanks!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Kathi, nice to see you here. I am not aware of the fur being outlawed. I think it is more likely that the fad of fashion has changed due to social pressure. Thank you for your visit. Best wishes to you.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 

      7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Well done Dave, didn't know of their destruction in the UK, actually didn't know a lot about the mink except for the use in making mink fur coats! It's probably outlawed now!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Dim Flaxenwick Glad to have been of help. Thank you for your visit it is appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      7 years ago from Great Britain

      Fascinating. Didn´t realise how little I knew about Mink. Thank you .

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi jantamaya I love the mink they are beautiful creatures as are their relatives the stoat and weasel.You are right there is no humanly killing yet where they not killed in huge numbers to make the coats to supply the fad of the wealthy. If this were not so the animals would not be a threat over here or anywhere else and that was one of my main points. Best wishes to you.

      Hi Becky nice to see you here again. thank you. Best wishes to you.

      Hi Truckstop Sally they are not dangerous to humans if they are left unmolested and they are beautiful creatures, thank you for visit it is appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 

      7 years ago

      Hope I never run across a mink in the UK or USA. Cuter than a rat . . . but still.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Interesting Hub. Enjoyed the read. Thanks

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 

      7 years ago from UK

      I love mink! There is no humanly killing. OK, it shouldn't live in the UK, send them back to the US.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Darski, thank you for visiting THE AMERICAN MINX,and for leaving your usual kind comments which are always welcomed. Best wishes to you my friend.

      jandee, hello nice to see you here thankyou too for your visit and welcomed comments. Best wishes to you.

    • jandee profile image

      jandee 

      7 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      Hello DAL, enjoyed your write on this strong predator,poor little 'vole though..,jandee

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      An Excellent hub. There is enough room on this Earth to share for each being that lives and thrives here. I only wish others understood that. Gosh, the last think in my mindset would be to harm anything...except for bedbugs, nasty posionist spiders, and lice....Other then that I love your hub, it's nice that you are giving us a dose of your creatures that live in you habitat...Love & peace always your fan and you friend. rate up

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