American Mink

Species Description

Scientific name: Neovison vison

 Identification sheet

Native to: North America

Habitat: Mink are generally found near water of any kind, from rivers and streams to canals, ponds and lakes. However they can live away from water if there is sufficient prey, and may even inhabit urban areas. Mink will have 2-10 dens in and around their preferred hunting ground, usually in the roots of trees in eroding banks. 

The American mink was brought to Britain for fur farming.  There have been many escapees as well as deliberate releases by animal rights activists. Mink are voracious predators, preying on fish, mammals and birds.  They will take large salmon many times their own size.  They also contribute to the continuing decline in the population of water voles as they are small enough to enter the voles’ burrows.

Further Information


  • Males are up to 60 cm long (42cm body, 18cm tail)
  • Females are slightly smaller at 51 cm long (36 cm body, 15 cm tail)
  • Glossy dark brown, looking black in certain light.  However, due to some selective breeding in the past, there are occasionally colour variations.
  • They are accomplished swimmers and are often seen in the water. Mink are often mistaken for otters, but are much smaller with fluffier tails and pointed snouts.

Dispersal and Reproduction

  • Mating occurs in late February to March and gestation lasts about 39 days. 
  • 4-6 young per litter are born between April and May.
  • At ten weeks they are no longer dependant on the mother for food and will accompany her hunting
  • By August they will have learned to hunt and start to disperse to their own territories.
  • Kits dispersing from their mother with settle within 5km (females) or 10km (males) of the den in which they were born.
  • Mink are now found in varying densities throughout the UK with the exception of some out lying islands, and the far north west of Scotland 


  • Mink are voracious predators with a wide range of prey.  They will predate on fish, birds, eggs, rabbits, water voles, crayfish, eels, and other small mammals.
  • Mink pose the greatest threat to the water vole whose population has declined by up to 95% from its pre-1960 level.
  • The numbers of fish taken by mink are variable but they are known to take eels and salmonids.
  • Ground nesting birds are also a large target for mink which will both kill the sitting bird and eat the eggs.


  • It is important to undertake surveys to assess the density and size of the mink population within a catchment. This can be carried out using ‘mink rafts’ and identifying tracks.
  • The survey can then be used to set up a trapping strategy, which can be targeted and adapted where necessary.
  • Encouraging the return of the European otter may reduce the negative impact of mink on rivers 

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