The European Mink is a European member of the Mustelidae family found in some regions of Spain, France, Romania, Ukraine, Estonia and the greater part of Russia. Formerly it extended across all Europe, reaching Finland in the north, but it is now extinct in the major part of its ancient range.
European Mink have slender, flexible bodies, bushy tails, and webbed paws. They have a sleek summer coat, and a darker, denser, winter coat, better suited to low temperatures. Their eyesight is generally poor, so that they rely heavily on their superior sense of smell while hunting.
It is sometimes possible to distinguish the European and American species based on the fact that the American Mink usually lacks a large white patch on its upper lip, while the European Mink always possesses one. Any mink without such a patch can be identified with certainty as an American Mink, but an individual with such a patch, if encountered in continental Europe, cannot be certainly identified without looking at the skeleton. The European Mink always and the American Mink usually has a white spot on the lower lip, which continues in broken or unbroken fashion to form ventral markings. Since each is a different shape, it is possible to recognize individuals based on these ventral patterns.
Fur also grows white over a scar and older mink tend to have more such patches, although absolute age is difficult to quantify without studying the animal from birth. In fur farms, mink are generally slaughtered after eight months, but can live several years in the wild (although mortality is high, especially among dispersing juveniles).
Male European Mink are from 28-43 cm in body length, and weight about 900 grams, while the females are only slightly smaller at 30-40 cm long and 600 grams in weight. These figures are somewhat smaller than those for the American Mink.
European Mink are solitary animals, and live in dens close to fresh water. They range over an area of shoreline or riverbank up to four kilometres in length, and defend the territory with a combination of scent marking and physical aggression. They are carnivores, and prey on a wide range of waterside animals, including fish, voles, rabbits, and waterfowl. The mink is a nocturnal animal that doesn't hibernate during the winter.
Between February to March, males leave their dens and travel considerable distances in search of a mate. Both males and females mate with several different individuals over the course of the season. The female gives birth to four to six naked, blind, kits after a mean gestation period of 49.66 days to 51.7 days. This process may appear longer due to delayed implantation. The young kits are weaned at eight to ten weeks, and leave to establish their own dens at three to four months. They are sexually mature in time for the breeding season the following year
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