, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 1701–1712 | Cite as

Mercury and other heavy metals in free-ranging mink of the lower Great Lakes basin, Canada, 1998–2006

  • Pamela A. Martin
  • Tana V. McDaniel
  • Kimberley D. Hughes
  • Bruce Hunter


Mercury concentrations were examined in livers of free-ranging mink (Neovison vison) trapped in the lower Great Lakes basin from 1998 to 2006. Significant geographic variation in total mercury levels was found in mink from 13 Great Lakes locations, many of which are within Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs). Total mercury levels in mink from these locations were generally low to moderate, with means (±SE) ranging from 0.99 (±0.36) μg/g dry weight in mink from inland Lake Erie to 7.31 (±1.52) μg/g in mink from Walpole Island in the St. Clair River AOC. Overall, mercury exposure was highest in mink trapped in locations associated with large riverine wetlands. Total mercury concentrations were negatively related to the percentage of mercury present as methylmercury and positively related to selenium concentrations, consistent with increasing demethylation of methylmercury with increasing total mercury concentrations. One-year old mink had significantly higher levels of mercury and selenium than mink under 1 year but similar to mink 2 years of age and older. Mercury levels were below those associated with mercury toxicity. Concentrations of cadmium, lead and arsenic were low and largely associated with environmental background levels. Significant age and sex effects were found for cadmium. Lead levels were significantly lower in mink infected by the lung nematode parasite compared to uninfected animals. Further studies of biomagnification of methylmercury in wetland environments, where top predators such as mink may be an increased risk of exposure, are warranted.


Mink Mercury Heavy metals Great Lakes Parasites 



The authors thank the many trappers who provided us with mink carcasses and trapping records as well as the City of Hamilton for providing access to road-killed mink. Chris Heydon of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources provided assistance in planning and contacting of commercial mink trappers. We would also like to thank Glenn Barrett of Environment Canada for assistance in the field and the laboratory. Funding was provided in part from Environment Canada’s Great Lakes Action Plan.


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada  2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela A. Martin
    • 1
  • Tana V. McDaniel
    • 1
  • Kimberley D. Hughes
    • 2
  • Bruce Hunter
    • 3
  1. 1.Environment CanadaBurlingtonCanada
  2. 2.1944 Parkside DrivePickeringCanada
  3. 3.Department of PathobiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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