As the name suggests, American mink originated in North America.
Renowned for their thick fur, large numbers of mink were bred, raised and killed on fur farms.
Some animals escaped, and others were released on purpose.
The mink readily adapted to their new environment and quickly spread, establishing themselves at the top of the food chain.
Mink are now found in every county in Ireland, and are regarded by many as a pest species.
There is a European species of mink, but it has never reached Ireland.
Along with the badger, otter, stoat & pine marten, the American mink is a member of the mustelid family, a group of short-legged, long-bodied carnivores.
The mink has a long slender body, very thick dark-brown fur, and partially webbed feet - mink spend a lot of time in water.
The mink is quite adaptable and has spread to a variety of habitats, but is usually found near water, not difficult in a wet country like Ireland.
Mink prefer slow-flowing rivers, and lakes with plenty of thick vegetation, but are also found on the coast and along canals. Sometimes a mink will dig a den in soft soil, but usually they occupy old rabbit burrows, hollow trees or even ruined buildings.
American mink are hunters or predators. Living mainly near water, their prey is mostly fish such as perch and eels, crayfish where they are plentiful, and water birds like coot, mallard and moorhen. Mink are good swimmers, but unable to dive for as long as otters - dives last for about 10 seconds. So they usually take slower-moving prey than otters do. Mink also eat rats, frogs and insects.
Mink usually breed in late February, and the pregnancy may be 1 month or delayed until up to 80 days. 3-5 young kits are born blind and naked, but grow very fast and are weaned at 8 weeks. They leave to find their own territories in August or September.