Underwater predatory behaviour of the American mink (Mustela vison)

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Abstract

Fishing behaviour of the American mink (Mustela vison Schreber) was investigated in the laboratory. Data were recorded using ciné film and tape recorded commentaries. Three species of prey were presented to mink, namely, carp (Cyprinus curpio), goldfish (Carassius auratus) and minnows (Phoxinus phoxinus).

It was found to be necessary to train ranch-bred mink to enter water and catch fish; young mink appeared to be easier to train than adults. Mink spent 5–20 sec under water when fishing; prey had usually previously been located from an aerial vantage point. Predatory behaviour was highly organized sequentially whereas fish were more prone to indulge in unpredictable stratagems; the behaviour of mink and fish were highly correlated.

The mink's efficiency in catching fish was related to prey size (smaller individuals being more vulnerable to capture) and shoaling. Minnows, which form highly organized shoals, were less easily caught when present in large numbers; this was not true of a loosely shoaling species, the carp.

Of the three species of prey presented, vulnerability to capture took the form goldfish> carp> minnow; these differences, however, may have been influenced by the fish's previous experience of underwater predators.

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