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15.11.2011. Author administrator

European mink is critically endangered species


Everybody has heard about the damage done by American mink to bird populations, but it turns out, that it has also had a deep negative impact on the population of European mink.

On November 10, 2011, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List  team published the results of this year’s update of the estimated conservation status of species. With this estimate the status of at present altogether 61 900 species has been reviewed using objective criteria. In the present assessment the European mink was raised to the critically endangered category. Belonging there means that the species is considered to be critically near extinction.

Among all the predators in the world eight other species are judged to be in the same critical state of danger of extinction. Among all mammals in Europe there are four species besides the European mink in this category, including two predator species: the Iberian mink and the Mediterranean monk seal.

The move of the European mink to a critically endangered species does not in itself mean that its state has worsened drastically from the previous estimate, in 1996, of the global state of the species. The opinion was voiced already then that the European mink might belong to the critically endangered species but lacking sufficient evidence from Russia this could not be ascertained and the European mink stayed in the lower, endangered species category. In this year’s estimate the evidence lacking earlier is included and this made it possible to ascertain the real state of the species.

The decline and extinction of the European Mink cannot be explained with single universal factor. The main factors operating the extinction have been (1) habitat loss, (2) over- exploitation and (3) impact of alien American Mink.

In the European continent, human activities have resulted in large-scale alteration of landscapes, which has had a substantial impact on various habitats and their species. The European Mink has proved to be sensitive to human-induced environmental change and disturbance. As the type and extent of human influence on the species and its biotope has varied in time and between regions in Europe, also the set of factors contributing to the extinction has varied.

The role of the alien American Mink deserves a special attention. Its role has been noted in several reports as a secondary or not at all important factor, usually emphasizing that the decline of the European Mink started before the invasion of American Mink. Further, although there are “time-shot” records on the co-existence of the two mink species, no records demonstrating long-term sympatric coexistence of the two mink species have been traced. Numerous records reveal the local replacement of the European Mink with the American Mink, but no opposite events have been reported. This means that the presence of the American Mink in wide territories across Europe makes the efforts for species recovery a very complicated task.


Source: Looduskalender.ee; IUCN
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Tags: american mink, european mink

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