A foe in woe: American mink (Neovison vison) diet changes during a population decrease
Magnusdottir R., von Schmalensee M., Stefansson RA., Macdonald DW., Hersteinsson P.
The invasive American mink has been a component of Iceland's fauna since the 1930s. Hunting statistics indicate that until 2003 the population size was increasing, but thereafter decreased rapidly. The Icelandic marine environment has experienced various changes in recent years, including rising sea temperature and sand-eel collapse followed by seabird recruitment failure and population declines. Furthermore the arctic fox population has increased at least six-fold in the last three decades. Mink stomach content analysis in the period 2001-2009 revealed diet changes, and signs of reduced prey availability for this generalist predator, that were most significant in males. The most marked shift in composition was a decrease in consumption of birds. Our findings suggest that climate events, together with competition with increasing numbers of arctic foxes over terrestrial food, contributed to the sharp reduction in the mink population from 2004 and onwards. Despite their generalist behaviour, mink have apparently failed to respond fully to these environmental changes, and this susceptibility may benefit attempts to control their numbers. The results are relevant to the ability of top predators in general to cope with diverse ecosystem alterations triggered by climate change. © 2013 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde.