Mink facts

  • Mink are long bodied, dark-coloured, semiaquatic, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, otters and ferrets. There are two species referred to as "mink": the American mink and the European mink
  • The mink we have in Britain are not native. They are American mink (Neovison vison), which originated from mink brought in the UK for fur-farming. The European mink has apparently never existed in the British Isles
  • Mink farms had been established in the UK from the 1920s, and at its peak in the 1950s, there were 400 known fur farms in the UK
  • Today mink are widespread in Britain's mainland, except in the mountainous regions of Scotland, Wales and the Lake District
  • Mink breeding season lasts April to May, but they have a curious phenomenon know as delayed implantation, in which the embryo may stop developing for a variable period, so that as long as 76 days may elapse before the litter arrives
  • Mink is nocturnal and prey on fish and other aquatic life, small mammals, birds and eggs
  • Mink swim using their rear limbs. The fur is extremely dense. The eyesight is mediocre under the water. The swim speed is 46-54 cm (1.5-1.8 ft) per second
  • In North American Northwest Coast legends, Mink is portrayed as an irreverent trickster and troublemaker, whose exploits are culturally inappropriate in humorous ways. In some tribes, Mink is often considered a lucky animal

Why we need to protect mink

An American mink with a background of green leaves, looks to the right to the image

American Mink in Great Britain

A widespread modern misconception is that the UK’s wild population of American mink originated from mass releases of mink from fur farms by animal rights activists in the 1990s. In fact, the wild population was established decades earlier from multiple escapes (and perhaps deliberate releases) all over the country. Mink were first confirmed to be breeding in the wild in 1956. By December 1967, wild mink were present in over half the counties of England and Wales, and in much of lowland Scotland. After all these years naturalised in the UK, it can be argued that mink has now become part of the British ecosystem and now is playing the role of other native predator species such as otters that had disappeared in some areas because of hunting, which means that it should no longer be considered a threat. Besides, the fact mink is not native to the UK does not imply that it cannot suffer if it is mistreated or killed inhumanely, so it still needs protection from that.

Mink hunting

In the UK organised Otter hunts began to target mink after their initial quarry, otters, were depleted in numbers and it become illegal to hunt them since 1978. During a mink hunt, the hounds are followed on foot as they walk or swim along riverbanks while the mink frantically attempt to escape. Unlike otters, mink have small territories (less than a mile of river bank) so once they have been spotted by the hunt they tend not to go far. Mink hunting is banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act 2004 as it bans the hunting of wild mammals with dogs (regardless if they are native or not), but we believe it still continues.

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Mink are also the victims of snaring in the UK, and as it is illegal to release a caught mink back onto the wild for being considered an alien species, even if mink is still alive when found caught by a snare and even if it was not the intended target, it will be killed.

What is the League doing to protect mink

  • When the right intelligence reaches our Animal Crimewatch officers we can investigate reports of illegal mink hunting across the UK, although this is rare as mink hunts are very secretive
  • By campaigning to protect the Hunting Act 2004 from repeal or weakening we are protecting the only piece of legislation that makes illegal the use of dogs to inhumanely hunt mink
  • We are campaigning to have snares banned in all parts of the UK

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