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Where are Mink Found?

Habitat: Mink are semi-aquatic animals and the best places to see them are in wetland environments such as large marshlands or along lakeshores, rivers and streams. They rely on the presence of waterways as travel paths and major sources of food and shelter. They are excellent swimmers and divers and can stay under water for some time.

One way to find mink is to look for muskrat huts and burrows. If they are abandoned, mink will simply move in, but they may also take over occupied huts, killing and eating the occupants. Mink will also make dens in natural cavities in stream banks, under trees and in drift piles, lining them with grass, leaves, fur or feathers.

Mink are wanderers, especially the male. He sometimes will be gone for two weeks at a time. The female usually stays close by its den, and as a rule, will stay by for years unless food drives it to a new location.

The number of mink in an area usually depends on the amount and quality of available habitat, but there is usually about one mink for each 50 acres of wetland habitat and three or four mink for each mile of good stream habitat.


Range: Mink originally evolved in North America. The European species is a late migrant to Eurasia across the Bering Land Bridge during the last glacial phase of the Pleistocene. The two species have only been geographically isolated for some 10,000 years and are, in consequence, very similar in appearance, although there are skeletal differences, and American mink grow to a greater size (as do males of each species).

American Mink: The American mink, Neovison vison, is native to North America, where they are found right across Canada south of the tree line, through all of the United States except for the southwestern deserts.

Though inconspicuous, they are far from rare, with healthy habitats often supporting eight or more per square kilometer.

For the purpose of fur farming, they have been introduced to many parts of Europe, including Iceland, north-central Europe, the British Isles, Norway, Belarussia, the Baltic States, Spain and Siberia. As a result of escapes from fur farms and their intentional release in Russia in the 1930s and ’40s in order to establish a superior source of “free range” fur, the American mink is now naturalized in many parts of Europe and has in places supplanted the native species.

(Reference: The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals, by Don Wilson and Sue Ruff, 1999.)

European Mink: The European mink is the most endangered carnivore in Europe. It once inhabited a vast territory from the Ural mountains to eastern Spain and from central Finland to the Black Sea. Since the beginning of this century its range has decreased drastically. At present, isolated populations can be found in only one-fifth of its former range.

The European mink is included in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Habitat as a species which needs strict protection. In the IUCN Action Plan For Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids, it is considered a high priority for species conservation. The European mink is also in the Red Data Book.

Experts are not sure of the reason for the decline of the European mink, but the most likely factors are competition from the introduction of American mink, a reduction in suitable habitat due to human activity, and over-hunting.

The European Mink Conservation & Breeding Committee (EMCC), based at the Tallinn Zoo in Estonia, provides the following country-by-country breakdown of the European mink’s current status:

  • Austria: Last record is from the 19th century.

  • Bulgaria: Last record is from 1951.

  • Byelorus: Common until the 1940s. At present there is a small population of 150-200 in the northeast of the country.

  • Czechoslovakia: Last records are from the early 1950s.

  • Estonia: A small population inhabits the northern part of the country.

  • France: Present in an area of western France extending from Normandy to the Spanish border. Status is unclear.

  • Georgia: Formerly the species inhabited the riverbanks by the Black Sea. Now most likely extinct.

  • Germany: Vanished in the mid-19th century.

  • Great Britain: Fossil records from 500,000 – 400,000 B. C.

  • Hungary: Last record is from 1952.

  • Latvia: No precise information. Most likely extinct.

  • Lithuania: Started to decrease in the 1940s. Last record is from 1979.

  • Moldova: In the 1930s, population began declining very rapidly. Now extremely rare.

  • Netherlands: Fossil records from 2300 – 2100 B. C.

  • Poland: Started to decline at the beginning of the 20th century. Last specimens were recorded in 1925-26.

  • Romania: Unconfirmed reports suggest that a population still survives in the Danube delta.

  • Russia: There are populations in the Volga, Dnepr and West-Dvina river basins. The population with the highest density lives in the Tver Region.

  • Spain: Population is concentrated in a small area in the north of the country.

  • Switzerland: Only known record is from the mid-19th century.

  • Ukraine: By the 1980s, only small isolated populations survived in the upper courses of rivers. May now be extinct.

  • Yugoslavia: Only known record is from 1914.


For more information about the conservation status of the European mink, visit the Tallinn Zoo.

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