Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 13–22 | Cite as

Tracking the expansion of the American mink (Neovison vison) range in NW Portugal

  • Diana C. RodriguesEmail author
  • Luciana Simões
  • Jacinta Mullins
  • Simone Lampa
  • Raquel C. Mendes
  • Carlos Fernandes
  • Rui Rebelo
  • Margarida Santos-Reis
Invasion Note


Invasive in many European countries, the American mink (Neovison vison) was introduced in Portugal in the late 1980’s, presumably escaping from Spanish fur farms close to the border. In spite of the biological richness of the invaded area, no study ever addressed the evolution of the invasion process. We aimed to investigate the current distribution and status of the mink in NW Portugal and discuss some contributing factors to explain the rate of invasion. We detected mink presence using floating rafts as footprint tracking devices, and scats as a molecular tool aiding in species identification. Results demonstrate a clear range expansion southwards, with mink already occupying most of the region’s hydrographic basins. After a first phase of slow expansion (55 km in 20 years), mink seems to have expanded its range quite rapidly in only 2 years (45 km). The initial delay could be due to local thriving otter populations, whereas the recent establishment of red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) in the area could be a plausible explanation for the acceleration in the mink’s expansion. Being a key food resource, crayfish may be playing an important role as an expansion facilitator. Mink eradication is probably no longer feasible since well established populations near the border continue to function as sources for the Portuguese population. Therefore, a control program should start immediately in the NW region, preferably in conjunction with Spanish authorities.


Range expansion Tracking rafts Fecal genotyping Lutra lutra Interspecific competition Procambarus clarkii 



We would like to thank the Portuguese “Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia” for funding Project DILEMA—“Alien species and conservation dilemmas: the effects of native competitors and alien prey species on the spread of the American mink in Portugal” (PTDC/BIA-BEC/102433/2008). Furthermore, we thank the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD; D/07/49405) and the Helmholtz Interdisciplinary Graduate School for Environmental Research (HIGRADE) for funding Simone Lampa. We are very grateful to Francisco Moreira, Julien Goebel, Rita Duarte, Sofia Gonçalves, Carlo Rusponi, Laura Kuipers, Mafalda Basto, Teresa Sales-Luís, Ana Catarina Silva and Céline Madeira for assisting in the field and laboratory work. We also thank Nuno Pedroso, Helena Rio Maior, Renato Fernandes, João Branco, Associação Guarda-Rios do Lima, Carlos Rio, Ana Carvalho, Patrícia and José Luís Sequeira for providing data on American mink sightings. We are grateful to the staff of the Gaia Biological Park for allowing us to test the tracking device with captive mink and polecats and that of the Lagoons of Bertiandos and S. Pedro d’Arcos Protected Area for logistic support during fieldwork. Finally, we are most grateful to Lauren Harrington and another anonymous reviewer for providing valuable inputs that have greatly contributed to improve this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana C. Rodrigues
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luciana Simões
    • 1
  • Jacinta Mullins
    • 1
  • Simone Lampa
    • 2
  • Raquel C. Mendes
    • 1
  • Carlos Fernandes
    • 1
  • Rui Rebelo
    • 1
  • Margarida Santos-Reis
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Biologia AmbientalFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Conservation BiologyUFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental ResearchLeipzigGermany

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