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Population ecology of free-ranging American mink Mustela vison in Denmark

PhD thesis

By Mette Hammershøj


This PhD thesis presents the results of various studies of free-ranging American mink Mustela vison in Denmark. Stable carbon isotope analyses of teeth and claws from 213 free-ranging mink from two areas in Denmark showed that nearly 80% were escaped farm mink. A genetic analysis of a sub-sample of the same animals by means of microsatellites corroborated this result. The isotope analyses permitted the separation of the mink into three groups; newly escaped mink, 'earlier' escaped mink (having lived in nature for more than ca. two months), and wild mink. The survival of these three groups differed. Once an escaped farm mink had managed to stay alive in nature for more than two months, its chances of survival were as good as for the wild mink. Mink diet consisted primarily of mammals, followed by amphibians, birds and fish. Diet of polecats from the same area is also described. Finally, the thesis gives results from model simulations (including evolution) of the possible effects on the free-ranging population of reducing the number of escapes or completely closing down fur farms in Denmark.

Full report in PDF format (333 KB)


Helle Thomsen


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