Over the last 150 years, the European mink has been extirpated from most of its former range from Finland to east of the Ural mountains, to northern Spain and the Caucasian Mountains.
The historical range of the European mink extended from Finland to east of the Ural Mountains, to northern Spain and the Caucasian Mountains.
The relatively recent discovery of European mink in France in 1839 and in eastern Spain in 1951 suggests late expansion of the species to the west. Fossil finds of the European mink are very rare, thus indicating the species is either a relative newcomer to Europe, probably having originated in North America, or a recent speciation caused by hybridization. It likely first arose in the Middle Pleistocene, with several fossils in Europe dated to the Late Pleistocene being found in caves and some suggesting early exploitation by humans.
Over the last 150 years, European mink has severely declined and been extirpated or greatly reduced over most of its former range.
European mink numbers began to shrink during the 19th century, with the species rapidly becoming extinct in some parts of Central Europe. During the 20th century, mink numbers declined all throughout their range, the reasons for which having been hypothesized to be due to a combination of factors, including climate change, competition with, as well as diseases spread by, the introduced American mink (Neovison vison), habitat destruction, declines in crayfish numbers, and hybridization with the western polecat.
In Central Europe and Finland, the decline preceded the introduction of the American mink, having likely been due to the destruction of river ecosystems.
In Estonia, the last wild individual was trapped in 1996. The decline seems to coincide with the spread of the American mink.
In the Moscow region, the species was present in at least two locations until 1994, but a snow-tracking survey of these locations found no European minks in 1997.
• Image | ©️ Paco Gómez, Some Rights Reserved, (CC BY-SA 2.0)
• Sources | (Davidson, et al., 2000; Heptner, et al., 1988; Kurtén, 2007; Maran, 1999, 2007; Maran & Henttonen, 1995; Maran, et al., 2016; Michaux, et al., 2005; The Wikimedia Foundation, 2020a; Youngman, 1990)