Mink farming


The feral American Mink (Mustela vison) is arguably the most controversial of all introduced species to have colonized the British Isles. The species was first introduced to Britain in 1929 and to Ireland in 1951. Mink is a Mustelid, a member of the weasel family. Males weigh between 0.9kg and 1.3kg. The females are about half the size, weighing 0.5 to 0.8kg. An adult male mink measures up to 60cms from the nose to the tip of the tail. They are solitary territorial animals. Mating occurs in March and early April. Up to eleven young are produced from the end of April through to near the end of May. The kitts are sexually mature in nine months and breed the season after they are born.

Mink in Britain. J.H.F. Stevenson. 1957 (Peregrine Fur Farm, Moretonhampstead, Devon)

"If on the other hand you want fascinating work, with the chance of a fair return combined with an element of risk~a bit of a gamble~and are prepared to act as maid of all work to a number of not noticeable appreciative animals, I hope you will find the following pages helpful and interesting.

I say a gamble. A fur farmer, no matter what animal he breeds, faces all the usual risks of livestock keeping in the way of disease, difficulties over food supplies and so on; but, over-riding them all, holding his fate in her delicate hands, is My Lady Fashion. She, by turning her inconsiderate back on a particular type of fur, can spread ruin among its breeders. For some years she has bestowed her most charming smiles on mink; may she long continue to do so." p5

"A guard fence surrounding the pens has a dual purpose. To prevent an escaped mink getting right away and to keep dogs and other unauthorised visitors away from the stock. While the loss of an escaped mink is bad enough, it is frequently followed by heavy claims for damages from enraged poultry keepers whose birds have been killed by 'a black shiny animal like a ferret'." p32

September-October : "Tail-biting is another worry that afflicts breeders at this time of the year. Where this is merely biting at the fur, often at the tip, and shearing it, in many cases it is simply boredom, and a small block of wood or a large pine cone to play with is all that is needed to break the habit....................Biting at the flesh of the tail, either at the tip or down its length is said to be due to irritation caused by damage to the actual tail structure by rough handling~the prevention is obvious, but the cure is amputation, or pelting." p57

"There are several methods of killing; electrocution in specially made cages, usually several in a "battery"; carbon monoxide gas from the exhaust of a car; cyanide; injections of Epsom salts to the heart. An increasing number of breeders are learning the knack of breaking necks, although many find that this is only practicable with females. I use chloroform." p60

Feral American Mink in Ireland. Chris Smal 1991.

"Prior to the introduction of legislation to regulate mink-farming in 1966, there were at least 58 farms in Ireland, mostly in the north and is the Irish midlands. Presently there are only 8 farms, their exports amounting to around IR£1.5 million each year.

The early history of unregulated mink-farming in Ireland included many small back-yard operations, leading to escapes of mink into the wild~ though larger operations were not without blame. By the end off the 1960s 31 wild mink had been trapped or spotted, and the mink continued its spread rapidly, principally in the north, the midlands and the eastern part of the country. There were also escapes in the south-west." p4

What regulates the numbers of Feral Mink? J.D.S. Birks. Nature Conservancy Council 1989.

"The feral mink is clearly not an example of an introduced species out of control. Like most predators it possesses a sophisticated behavioural mechanism for linking its population density to the available food supply. Nevertheless the mink's effect upon wildlife in Britain is still a contentious issue. Indeed it would be surprising if the establishment of a new exotic predator on our waterways were not to lead to some ecological changes. However, several studies have shown that the mink's impact upon wildlife has been much less severe than was originally feared. Despite many predictions of mink-induced extinctions, Devon's waterways still support a rich and varied wildlife over 30 years after the mink's arrival."