Sunday, 26 February 2012

Meet "Mork" the Mink

At the end of last year you may remember that sadly our elderly male mink passed away. This left our enclosure empty, but we soon were able to offer it to a female mink who had been caught by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. We named her "Mindy"

In the mean time we put the word out for if ever a male mink was available, to offer him a permanent home here too. Earlier this year we received a young male. After a short spell in quarantine, and having him castrated to prevent any breeding, we have now introduced him to Mindy and his new home.

We decided to call him "Mork", and you can see how well he has settled down from the picture above! He has become very friendly in a short period of time, and is now regularly out and about and curious to see what is going on.

Below you can see Tom moving him in to his new enclosure...

American Mink are an introduced species to the UK, first coming over in 1929 for use in the fur-farms. Right from the start there were probable escapees, and certain deliberate releases which followed meant that by as early as the 1950's they were breeding in the UK.

This led to devastation in much of our native wildlife, as the mink ran riot and preyed on many vulnerable species... most famously our water voles which remain one of our fastest declining mammals in this country.

A solitary animal, you normally find that the males have larger ranges which overlap several female territories for the breeding season. They can be active anytime of day, but are most often spotted out at dusk or through the night.

Being a semi-aquatic mammal they do spend a fair amount of time around the water, and their diet will consist of water life, birds, smaller mammals up to the size of a rabbit and sometimes even invertebrates.

They have bad reputation for being a vicious killer for fun and having a mean screechy attitude, where in reality, their ear piercing call is a defense for when startled or in fear. They will often go on a "killing spree" taking as much as they can in a short period of time, but they are just making the most of the resources available.

Although the mink has spread over a lot of the country now, and seems to be thriving in many areas, there is evidence that in some places they are in a decline. This seems to have a possible link with the natural spread and increase of European otters back into some of our habitats

I feel it important that we remember it is not the mink that brought itself over, and we humans created the damage which they now cause by first bringing them here and then in some cases releasing them into the wild. The mink themselves are just making opportunity out of our habitats, and surviving as best they can.

In certain areas of America, the mink is considered a fantastic pet, and are bred in many different colours much like they used to be. Only this time not to be turned into fur coats, but to be collected as rarer pets to show and care for.

I agree with many that the mink should not be wild in this country, and that it does cause much devastation, but I can also admire it as a species trying to survive.

For those of you that have a disliking towards the American mink, perhaps just maybe "Mork" will go some way to show you how pleasant they can be when they are not where they shouldn't be. Mork is full of character, and by spending just a few minutes watching him you will see how playful and superbly adapted he is to their lifestyle and how beautiful their fur coat really is.


  1. Interesting post Matt. Nice to hear someone else's views. Having witnessed the destruction they cause to our wildlife I feel they must be controlled in some way. I will look forward to meeting Mork and Mindy though.

  2. Don't get me wrong Mike, I don't think the mink should be out there in our wildlife causing the destruction it does. It is an alien species which is only here as a result of human interference. If I could press a button to rid of them all in the UK, I would.
    However, I don't think this should stop us admiring it as a species, and how well adapted it is for it's survival.

  3. I assume you have a licence for keeping a non native invasive species in captivity?
    For what reason do you have it in captivity?
    I am afraid this is factually ioncorrect - 'anything they kill is stored away for future use unless they are disturbed before they get the chance to do this.' Utter nonsense.
    I would hope that if you are intent on keeping this animal in captivity (and within the law) that you are at least getting your facts right...

  4. "Anonymous" Thank you for your comment. Yes, of course we do have a licence to hold our two mink here at the Centre. As it looks like you are aware, American mink are listed under the "Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932" and so therefore require a DIA2 licence issued by Natural England (NE) to allow legal possession of one of these captive animals. This licence is reviewed and renewed annually by NE, and our mink enclosure had to go through screening by NE before the initial licence was issued.

    At the British Wildlife Centre, we house a wide range of animals that you will find living in the wild of Great Britain today. This includes of course most of the native species, and many of the non-native or introduced species. In many cases our animals are part of a breeding program for conservation efforts, but for animals such as our American mink they are here to display to the public and school groups and educate about these individual animals. In particular their destructive behaviour and effects they have on our own native wildlife.

    I think you may have missed the point of the post. I am well aware of the damage this non-native species has done to our wildlife, and would be happy to see Britain rid of them for good. We have mink around the Centre, and we do trap to minimise their effects on our very local wildlife. But as an animal, which is designed to survive as best they can, you have to admit... like it or not... they are very good at what they do. It is just they shouldn't be doing it where they are not supposed to be!

    Reading back the whole paragraph you quote from, I readily admit that it could have been worded a lot! better and could possibly be miss-read and lead to the wrong conclusion...I have seen many times myself that they will not store food, but often just leave it lying around the waters edge. Even though it is a few months old now, I will look at re-writing it in case anyone else stumbles across this post. The point I was trying to make was that will they decimate a population for fun, or is there a reason for this behaviour?

    From my limited experience in keeping and watching mink, and from talking to other people who have seen mink in the wild. It seems to be very opinionated on whether they "kill for fun" or not. Certainly, I am not disagreeing that they will go on a spree and often wipe out many fish in a pond for example, but is this for fun or is there another reason behind it? There seems to be views/opinions from both sides.

    1. Hiya Matt we've recently captured a mink and I know by law we should get rid as such but it's a lovely thing and I haven't the heart to do it do you know of anywhere that would take it to house it thankyou

    2. I am sorry Helen, but I can't think of anyone who would be willing or able to house an American mink. We currently have two here, and are unable to offer a home to another. You could always try your local wildlife trust in case they know of any collection who are currently looking for a mink, but I think it unlikely. They will most likely say that it should be humanely put down.

  5. Having watched a guy called Joseph Carter tame and actually train American mink to come to his call I’ve come to the conclusion that the reputation of the mink has been generated by a narrow minded section of society. You have to watch him and see his attitude to the mink to appreciate what an interesting and intelligent pet a mink can be.


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