Why are there fewer signs of mink in England? Considering multiple hypotheses
Bonesi L., Strachan R., Macdonald DW.
Understanding the causes that determine the spread and subsequent population trends of invasive species is important as it can help predict and manage their impact, as well as advance the theory of invasion. The American mink Mustela vison is a riparian mustelid and an invasive species in several countries. Mink have been introduced to England in the early decades of the last century and have been expanding their range until the mid-eighties. Since then, however, the number of sites occupied by mink has been declining. We investigated three possible causes of such a decline: (1) A downtrend of the fur farming industry; (2) An increase of European polecats Mustela putorius; (3) An increase of Eurasian otters Lutra lutra. Mink trends were derived from data collected by the National Otter Survey, a large-scale long-term survey of the whole of England from 1977 to 2002. We discuss how the observed decline in the number of sites occupied by mink may be due to a combination of an actual decrease in the distribution and density of mink and to a change in the focus of mink activities away from water, rather than to a change in their marking behaviour. Taken together, our results suggest that the decline of mink is related to an increase in the native otter population through interspecific competition, although at a local level also other factors may be important. As the otter population is still increasing, it is likely that the number of sites occupied by mink will continue to decline, a process that may be beneficial to aquatic and semi-aquatic species suffering from mink predation. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.