The role of environmental variables and sympatric meso-carnivores on the detection and occupancy of American mink during winter

Mar 23, 2018


The spatial distributions of animals generally are affected by the availability of food, competition,

predators, mates, and the need to communicate with conspecifics. An understanding of a given

species’ spatial distribution is essential when considering the ecological requirements of populations

as well as the impacts of anthropogenic activities and environmental change. The American

mink (Neovison vison) is a cryptic, semi-aquatic carnivore that ranges over a large portion of North

America yet the ecological role of the species is not well understood. We sought to investigate

the linkages between habitat and species co-occurrence on the occupancy patterns of mink within

riparian habitats during winter. We monitored mink using remote cameras (n=37) which were deployed

in riparian habitat along streams including lakeshore/stream confluences. We found that

fish-bearing streams positively affected mink occupancy, while the amount of older (>40 years)

coniferous forests had a negative relationship with mink occupancy. We postulate that while mink

seem to occur at high densities in altered ecosystems and in areas where they are invasive, in their

native range these animals may be limited by environmental and competitive pressures in the system.

Future work should explore the interactions between carnivore species in addition to habitat

selection in order to develop more robust monitoring and management practices.