Mustela lutreolaEuropean mink

Geographic Range

Mustela lutreola are found in areas of NE Spain and France and throughout Europe to the Irtysh and Ob Rivers. (Wozencraft 1993)


Mustela lutreola thrives in densely shaded banks of fresh water creeks, rivers, and lakes. M. lutreola may construct their own burrows, inhabit an evacuated burrow of a water vole (Arvicola), or may live in crevices among trees roots. (Nowak 1999).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

European mink are medium sized mustelids with a long body, short legs, and short tail. Total length for males is approximately 37.78 cm. Total length of females is 31.5 cm on average. During winter, European mink have a thick, water-repellent undercoat. Fur color is dark brown to black, and the underfur is usually brown. M. lutreola has both white lips and a white chin. Some European minks may have white spots on the throat, chest, and stomach area. (Kruska 1990, Youngman 1990).

  • Range mass
    440 to 739 g
    15.51 to 26.04 oz


Mating season occurs from February to March. The duration of pregnancy is approximately 35-72 days, with births occurring in April and May. The number of young in a litter is between two and seven, but usually the litter is around four or five. At birth males are approximately 7.39 cm in total length and 8.4 grams and females are 7.19 cm and 7.6 grams. Young are able to open their eyes after 4 weeks and the external auditory meati open within 23 to 27 days. Teeth appear in the young within 15-17 days and are replaced by adult teeth by 60-72 days. Young are weaned at about 10 weeks, and begin tracking and capturing prey. Young begin to disperse at about 2.5 to 4 months. Females are polyestrous and achieve sexual maturity at about 1 year. (Nowak 1999, Youngman 1990)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    54 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    323 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    323 days



By approximately four weeks of age European minks have keen vision. M. lutreola are most active around dusk and before day break. (Youngman 1990)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Mustela lutreola eat a wide variety of foods, primarily preying on aquatic animals. A study of stomach contents revealed the following foods: mammals (muskrats, voles, shrews, moles), birds, frogs, fishes, insects, and vegetation. (Youngman 1990)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Mustela lutreola have been trapped for commercial purposes. Between 1922 to 1924 in the Soviet Union an average of 49,850 pelts were collected. (Nowak 1999)

Conservation Status

Populations of Mustela lutreola have been in decline for both ecological and commercial reasons. They are now listed as endangered by the IUCN. The primary reason for population declines is commercial trapping for fur. However, M. lutreola also suffers as a result of water pollution and hydroelectric constructions. The introduction of Mustela vison has also negatively impacted M. lutreola populations. A recent study reported that there are approximately 25,000 European minks in Russia, and the world total is less than 30,000. Efforts to introduce M. lutreola in the Kuril Islands and Tajikistan have been initiated. There are also approximately 2,000 M. lutreola found in France and approximately 1,000 in northern Spain. In an attempt to save Mustela lutreola, British and Estonian biologists have established a breeding population on an island in the Baltic Sea.

(Nowak 1990, Zane 1998)


Tuteja Shalu (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


Kruska, D. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. New York: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wozencraft, C. 1993. Mammal Species of the World. Washington: Smithsonian Institutional Press.

Youngman, P. 1990. Mustela lutreola. Mammalian Species, 362: 1-3.

Zane, 1998. "European mink (Mustela lutreola)" (On-line). Accessed November 21, 1999 at www.ecolin.netcomcenter.