Habitat use and diet of the American mink (Mustela vison) in Argentinian Patagonia



Popularity as a fur-bearing species led to the American mink Mustela vison being transported far beyond its native range in North America (Dunstone, 1993). In many places the species was bred in fur farms, from which there were inevitably escapes, and in some areas it was deliberately released in large numbers with the intention of establishing harvestable populations. Both routes led to the widespread establishment of feral populations of this versatile semi-aquatic mustelid. Invariably, close scrutiny of the impact of feral American mink on native fauna has led at least to concern, and increasingly to proof, that they are inimical to the conservation of native species. Evidence of the impact of the American mink on native species falls into two categories. First, American mink may reduce significantly, and locally exterminate, certain vertebrate prey (Macdonald et al., in press). Second, as versatile and seemingly aggressive competitors they may alter the competitive balance within the local guild of semi-aquatic predators, even ousting native mustelids.