- There are two species referred to as "mink": the American mink and the European mink
- The American mink is the only mink found in the UK and it is not native. It became established here in the wild in the 1950s from animals that escaped from fur farms
- Mink farms were established in the UK from the 1920s, and at their peak, in the 1950s, there were 400 known fur farms
- Today the mink is widespread in the UK
- The American mink (Neovison vison) is a long bodied, dark-coloured, semiaquatic, carnivorous mammal of the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, otters and ferrets
- The species is nocturnal and preys on fish and other aquatic life, small mammals, birds and their eggs
- The mink occupies several dens within its home range of 1-6kms of riverbank
- Female minks give birth to a single litter of 4-7 young each year in April - May
- Mink numbers have declined due to competition with the native otter and localised management control
- In North American Northwest Coast legends, the mink is portrayed as an irreverent trickster and troublemaker, whose exploits are culturally inappropriate in humorous ways. In some tribes, the mink is often considered a lucky animal.
Minks should not be subjected to the cruelty of hunting
American mink in the UK
The mink is not native, but it did not ask to be brought here and like all sentient animals it can suffer poor welfare at the hands of people. 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. The mink was first confirmed to be breeding in the wild in 1956. By December 1967, wild minks were present in over half the counties of England and Wales, and in much of lowland Scotland. The species is firmly established in the UK, although it is declining which seems to be linked to the resurgence of otters resulting in increased competition, and localised management control. Water voles are particularly vulnerable to predation by mink, which can have a significant impact on water vole populations.
In the UK organised otter hunts began to target mink after their initial quarry, otters, were significantly depleted, and it became illegal to hunt them in 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 so once they have been spotted by the hunt they tend not to go far. Mink hunting is banned in England and Wales under the Hunting Act 2004 as it bans the hunting of wild mammals with dogs (regardless if they are native or not), but we have evidence that it still continues today.
Mink are also the victims of snaring in the UK, causing them to suffer poor welfare.
What is the League doing to stop mink from suffering poor welfare and cruelty
- 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