Our Neighborhood's Biodiversity Map

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Europe
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Shared by : Arushi Madan (UK), Anishka Jha(UAE)
Region : Europe
Status : CR (Critically Endangered)
Introduction
European minks are nocturnal animals and emerge only in night in search of food. They eat small animals like birds, vole, mollusks, frogs, fish, crabs, and insects. They hunt in water, in swamps, on land, and burrows making their range of hunting considerably greater. The mink is known as a wanderer and rarely uses the same den. They are solitary mammals, except during the period from February to March, which is their breeding season. The gestation period lasts for 5 to 10 weeks and the female gives birth during spring because at that time the food is found in abundance. The female gives one litter every year and there can be 2 to 7 young ones in one litter. Their weaning period is about 10 weeks and the babies leave the den when they are 12 to 18 weeks old. After one year, the babies become mature and live up to only six years. A young / baby of a European mink is called a 'cub or kit'. The females are called 'sow' and males 'boar'.
Appearance and Vital Statistics: The medium-sized European Mink has short legs, a short bushy tail, and a long slender arched body. The fur is normally blackish brown with white bands on the upper and lower jaws, sometimes on the throat. This marking and its smaller size usually distinguishes it from the American mink M. vision. It can adapt to semi-aquatic life with its partly webbed feet which are useful for swimming, diving, and hunting underwater. Its eyes, however, are not well-adapted to see underwater prey and on the ground also, it has to depend on its sense of smell to forage terrestrial prey. Males and females look very similar, but the males are up to 80% larger. The reason for this difference is that males compete for mates and territories and so benefit from being larger, while the females have to protect and feed the offspring as well as themselves. If the females were larger they would have to consume even more food for themselves, which would result in spending less time with the young. Mink offspring are similar in appearance to adults. An adult European Mink female weighs about 600 grams (21 oz) and as the male is heavier, it may weigh about 900 grams (31 oz). The length of its body can be 28 to 43 cm (11.02 to 16.92 inches) and its total length up to its tail is 35 to 58 cm (13.77 to 22.83 inches).

• Average lifespan: 10 years.
• Geographical distribution:
- Native: France Romania Russian Federation Spain Ukraine
- Regionally extinct: Austria Belarus Bulgaria Croatia Czech Republic Finland Georgia Germany Hungary Kazakhstan Latvia Lithuania Moldova Montenegro Netherlands Poland Serbia (Serbia) Slovakia Switzerland
- Reintroduced: Estonia Habitat: European Mink has specialised habitat requirements.

It is semi-aquatic, inhabiting densely vegetated banks of rivers, streams, marshlands, creeks, wetlands(inland) and sometimes, during the warm season, it may inhabit lake-banks. It is rarely found more than 100 meters away from fresh water. They can also be found in burrows, muskrat huts, in evacuated burrow of a water vole (Arvicola), or in crevices among trees roots. They make dens using grass, leaves feathers, and fur under trees, on stream banks, and in drift piles.
Causes/ Threats
Habitat loss, Over-exploitation, Impact of alien American Mink and Other factors like hybridisation, road casualties, Aleutian disease and secondary poisoning. The species was largely in the fur trade during the first half of the 20th century. As of 2014, it seemed to have stopped/reduced drastically. The higher quality of farmed American Mink fur makes it highly unlikely that the trading could become an issue in European Mink conservation.
Conservation/Restoration Efforts
European Mink is legally protected in all range states.
• General: conservation breeding programme in the form of European Mink EEP programme with about 250 minks in captivity is on-going since 1992. The programme is coordinated by Tallinn Zoological Gardens and Foundation Lutreola (Estonia). Country-wise conservation breeding programme are ongoing in Spain, France and Germany.
• Estonia: (a) establishment of island population in Island Hiiumaa (Dagö) since 2000. At present a small breeding core population exists in the islands (b) studies on reproductive physiology of the species studies one survival and adaptation of the species in reintroduction programmes, studies on genetics, studies on the impact of captive conditions to the stress of mink (c) regular monitoring of the results of establishment of island population in Hiiumaa (d) habitat improvement actions.
• Romania: (a) since 2001 regular monitoring has been conducted in Danube delta, (b) in 2011, the strategic plan for European Mink conservation was elaborated in the European Mink handbook for the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Studies have been undertaken to determine European Mink's ecological requirements, to analyse the causes of its decline, and to assess the genetic variability, the survival of released captive-born European Mink. New studies have been launched to study reproductive physiology, impact of captive conditions, options for artificial insemination, effect of behavioural personality types in mink to conservation breeding and reintroduction.

Sources :
http://earthsendangered.com/continent.asp?gr=M&view=c&ID=6#AM
http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/14018/0
http://eol.org/pages/311519/details
http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Carnivora/Mustelidae/Mustela/Mustela-lutreola.html
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/redlist/downloads/European_mammals.pdf

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