By Calvin Jones
The American mink first started breeding in the wild in Ireland during the 1950s. It was introduced here for the purposes of fur farming, but inevitably there were escapees. Many were released by animal rights protesters, who targeted fur farms and liberated the caged animals – unleashing a deadly new predator on our unsuspecting native fauna.
Mink are highly adaptable, semi-aquatic mustelids (related to stoats, otters and badgers) that thrive in the Irish countryside. From small isolated populations they have spread rapidly along Ireland’s watercourses and are now found all over the country near rivers, streams, canals lakes and along our coastline.
In captivity mink generally have pale coats, but wild populations quickly revert to their darker natural form. The coat is generally dark brown, looking almost black when wet, and usually, but not always with a prominent white patch under the chin. The coat becomes thicker and darker in winter.
The mink’s dark fur can sometimes lead to confusion at first glance with the otter. However, the mink’s smaller size, slighter build and proportionally shorter tail make it relatively easy to distinguish the two species.