Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

An Invasive Mammal

Mink are small mammals who live in and around waterways like rivers, canals, marshes and lakes.

A dark brown mink taxidermy mount stands facing left. They have white fur under their chin and on their front right paw. Their front paws are slightly raised and their tail is curved around their hind legs.

They have silky looking dark brown fur. We have captured footage of them on a night wildlife camera trap along the River Aire at Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley.

Mink were prized for their fur, which was used to make clothing such as coats. They are not native to the UK but were imported from America and bred for their fur. We believe the UK wild population took hold when either breeders, or (more likely) well-meaning animal rights activists, released animals in the wild during the 1970s. The rise in wild mink has led to the near extinction of the UK water vole population. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 made it illegal to release mink into the wild in the UK.  

Otters eat mink, so if we clean up our rivers and waterways, otters will return and reduce the invasive species of mink.

  • How big are they? Mink are usually 50-60cm long, weighing 600g-1kg.
  • What do they eat? Mink eat fish, small mammals, birds and eggs.
  • Where do they live? They live anywhere with water and enough small wildlife to sustain them for food.  



  • Mammal: A warm-blooded animal with fur or hair, that produces milk for its young.


Discussion ideas:

  • Talk about the impact of releasing mink into the wild. What changes has it made to the food chain, or the wider environment? Think about what happens with a declining water vole population, or an increasing otter population. Which other species would grow or shrink in relation to that?  
  • Think about the animal rights activists. Releasing an invasive species was an unintended consequence of their passion for animal rights. Is direct action always the right thing to do? If you were going to take action around the environment, what would it be about? How much research would you need to do beforehand?