European mink verses American mink in Spain

European mink verses American mink in Spain

The European mink (Mustela lutreola) is a semi-aquatic mammal belonging to the Mustelidae family, which is native to Europe. It is a relatively small species of mink, measuring around 40-50 cm in length and weighing around 600-1500 grams. It has a distinctive dark brown fur with a white patch on the chin and chest. The European mink has webbed feet, which make it a good swimmer.

The European mink feeds on a variety of small animals, including fish, frogs, crayfish, and rodents. It is mostly active at dawn and dusk and spends most of its time in or near water. It is a solitary animal and has a small home range.

Endangered species and conservation efforts

The European mink is currently listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to a rapid decline in its population in recent decades. The main reasons for its decline are habitat loss, pollution, hunting, and competition with the non-native American mink, which was introduced to Europe for fur farming.

Conservation efforts are underway to save the European mink from extinction. These efforts include habitat restoration, breeding programs, and monitoring of the population. In some areas, the American mink is being trapped and removed to reduce competition with the European mink. However, much more work is needed to ensure the survival of this critically endangered species.

European mink – Mustela lutreola – Vison europeo in Spain

the European mink is known as “visón europeo” in Spanish. Spain is one of the countries where the European mink is still present, but unfortunately, its population has suffered a severe decline in recent years.

In Spain, the European mink is distributed mainly in the northern part of the country, in the regions of Cantabria, Asturias, Basque Country, Navarra, and Catalonia. The mink’s habitat in Spain is characterized by fast-flowing rivers, small streams, and ponds surrounded by vegetation.

The decline of the European mink population in Spain is mainly due to habitat loss, pollution, and the introduction of the non-native American mink, which competes with the European mink for resources and spreads diseases. The Spanish government and several conservation organizations are working to protect and restore the mink’s habitat and reduce the impact of the American mink.

Several captive breeding and reintroduction programs have been launched in Spain, with the aim of reintroducing the European mink into areas where it has disappeared. These programs have shown some success, but the long-term survival of the European mink in Spain remains uncertain, and further conservation efforts are needed to prevent its extinction.

American mink – Neovison vison – Vison Americano an invasive species in Europe
European mink verses American mink in Spain

The European mink is similar to the American mink, but there are some key differences. The American mink has a longer tail, almost half its body length, while its winter fur is denser, longer, and fits more closely than the European mink. Unlike the European mink, the American mink does not have white patches on its upper lip. The American mink also has a more specialized skull for carnivorous eating, with stronger teeth and more developed projections. In comparison, the European mink has a less specialized skull with weaker teeth and less developed projections. Additionally, the American mink is better at swimming underwater than the European mink.

The American mink is classed as an invasive species in Europe because it has a negative impact on the local ecosystems and native species. American mink are highly adaptable and aggressive predators, and they compete with the European mink for food and habitat. They can also transmit diseases to native species, such as the European mink.

How did the American mink get to Spain?

The American mink (Neovison vison) was introduced to Spain and other parts of Europe for fur farming in the mid-20th century. American mink farming became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, and as a result, thousands of mink were imported to Europe from North America. However, some of these mink escaped or were released from fur farms. (There have been instances of animal rights activists releasing minks from fur farms in various parts of Europe, including Spain, as a form of protest against the fur industry.)

European mink verses American mink in Spain
As you can see the distribution of the European mink in Spain is restricted to the north and is decreasing whilst the territory of the American mink is expanding.

Once established in the wild, the American mink population in Spain grew rapidly, and they quickly spread throughout the country’s river systems. They are now found in most parts of Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands. The spread of the American mink in Spain has had a devastating effect on the already endangered European mink population, exacerbating their decline and putting them at further risk of extinction.

Efforts to control the spread of the American mink in Spain include trapping and removal, habitat restoration, and public education campaigns. However, eradicating the American mink entirely from Spain is unlikely, and the focus has shifted to managing their impact and preventing further spread.

Animal welfare and animal rights organizations have condemned the release of minks and other animals from captivity, as it is often done without regard for the animals’ welfare or the potential impact on the environment. They advocate for more responsible and ethical ways of addressing animal welfare concerns and promoting animal rights.

Further reading

Wikipedia has some depressing in depth reading here: It is so sad to see the European mink extinct map image.

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