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Abundance and habitat preferences of the southernmost population of mink: implications for managing a recent island invasion
- Schüttler, Elke, Ibarra, José Tomás, Gruber, Bernd, Rozzi, Ricardo, Jax, Kurt
- Biodiversity and conservation 2010 v.19 no.3 pp. 725-743
- Castor canadensis, Neovison vison, beaches, coasts, habitat preferences, habitats, invasive species, islands, linear models, managers, mink, population ecology, predators, scientists, surveys, trapping, traps, wilderness, Chile
- Since 2001 invasive American mink has been known to populate Navarino Island, an island located in the pristine wilderness of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile, lacking native carnivorous mammals. As requested by scientists and managers, our study aims at understanding the population ecology of mink in order to respond to conservation concerns. We studied the abundance of mink in different semi-aquatic habitats using live trapping (n = 1,320 trap nights) and sign surveys (n = 68 sites). With generalized linear models we evaluated mink abundance in relation to small-scale habitat features including habitats engineered by invasive beavers (Castor canadensis). Mink have colonized the entire island and signs were found in 79% of the surveys in all types of semi-aquatic habitats. Yet, relative population abundance (0.75 mink/km of coastline) was still below densities measured in other invaded or native areas. The habitat model accuracies indicated that mink were generally less specific in habitat use, probably due to the missing limitations normally imposed by predators or competitors. The selected models predicted that mink prefer to use shrubland instead of open habitat, coastal areas with heterogeneous shores instead of flat beaches, and interestingly, that mink avoid habitats strongly modified by beavers. Our results indicate need for immediate mink control on Navarino Island. For this future management we suggest that rocky coastal shores should be considered as priority sites deserving special conservation efforts. Further research is needed with respect to the immigration of mink from adjacent islands and to examine facilitating or hampering relationships between the different invasive species present, especially if integrative management is sought.