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Eurasian Otter and Mink

Lutra Lutra

Mink are not indigenous to Britain, the feral populations having originally escaped from fur farms in the last century (and more recently released by animal rights activists). They are the only other semi-aquatic mustelid in Britain - the table below should make sure you can spot an otter from a mink.

The mink has often been accused of contributing to the otter's decline, through competing for food or agressively driving them out. This seems unlikely - fish form a smaller proportion of the mink diet and otters are better fishermen in any case. It is also hard to imagine how a 1kg mink could shove a 5-8kg otter round anywhere!

Indeed, recent reports show mink populations falling rapidly in areas where otters are beginning to thrive once more. The otter is apparently biting back!

Otter Mink
Size Larger than the largest cat Smaller than the average cat
Colour Mid brown when dry but may appear much darker when wet. After shaking the coat may be spiky. Dark brown, almost black but may occur in unusual colours due to fur farms (silver grey, yellowish brown or white)
Patterns Underside usually paler than back. May have white or cream patch under chin. Underside same colour but distinct white spots may be visible under chin, on chest and abdomen.
Shape Flattened wedge-shaped head with broad whiskery muzzle. Pointed face.
Tail Stout at base, tapering to a point. 40% of body length. Bushy and cylindrical like a cat's. Half the length of the body.
Behaviour Shy and retiring. Hunts by diving repeatedly in same area from surface of water. Rarely seen in daylight except in remote areas. Curious and unafraid of humans. Often hunts by diving into water from bank, rock or log. Regularly seen in daylight.