European Mink (Mustela lutreola): Environmental causes, American mink, human-interaction, oh my AbstractThe European mink (Mustela lutreola) has been critically endangered for a span of decades. Over these decades different threats have surfaced, reducing populations of European minks in Spain, Estonia, Romania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. Some threats the European mink faces are loss of habitat, poachers, and influence of the American mink (Neo vison). (T. Lode, 2001). The pattern of decline of European minks restricts them to even smaller areas of habitat. In heed of the knowledge of various mortality causes, the hypothesis set forward is that environmental causes including habitat is the main cause of extinction among European minks. The aim of this study was to research what main causes regarding increased reduction rate of the European mink population is; and what specific conservation efforts are in effect. Research for this study was conducted using a literature search of online sources, journals, and papers to analyze the pattern of reduction formerly and present mortality causes. The findings fell under categories: environmental causes, intrusion of the American mink, and human-interaction. The data is summarized using a bar graph (Figures 1). The findings show that competition with the American mink is higher threat among the European minks than environmental causes. Introduction The European mink belongs to the family of mustelids, and its origins stem from Europe. They reside in wetland habitats, as they are semiaquatic. European mink’s are nocturnal and hunt prey both in water and on land. Many European minks reside in burrows and huts surrounding riverbanks. European mink is labeled critically endangered and has gone extinct in some parts of Central Europe hundreds of years ago, with few left in Eastern areas of Europe. Several hypotheses have been forefronted in explaining the disappearance of this species; such as: climate change, poaching, competition with the American mink (Mustela vison), destruction of habitat, and diseases transmitted from the American mink. European minks have been poached for their fur since early 1900’s, involved in illegal fur trade where they were sold within the Soviet Union and Romania. Along with poaching the European mink also faces a competing rival for habitat, the American mink. The American mink is about 20% larger than its cousin, the European mink, and does not require wet habitats unlike the latter. Many research reports argue that the American mink is rapidly reducing the few numbers of the European mink, however, early declines of the European minks in Central Europe coincided with destruction of natural river ecosystems, specifically riverbanks. Habitat destruction due to drainage of riverbanks has resulted in large populations of European minks lost. Human-interaction has also been a more prominent cause of extinction among European minks. European minks have been poached specifically for the fur over many decades. Many were/are breeded for trade, and the areas that the European minks were distributed for fur trade include: Romania, Soviet Union, and Finland. Research shows that both poaching and the American mink seem to be the main source of mortality regarding the European mink. The introduction of the American mink has further reduced European mink numbers in areas like Estonia and Belarus.In Conservation Biology of the European Mink, Mustela luterola (linnaeus 1761): Decline and Causes of Extinction, Maran propose that many European mink causes of mortality occur in different periods of time; she stresses that even without the arrival of the American mink, environmental change as well as decline of food source would have been a deducing threat. While contrastingly, Sidovorich in the Study on the decline in European mink (Mustela luterola) population connection with the American mink (M. Vison) expansion in Belarus: story of the study, review of the results and research priorities proposes that the aggressive attitude that the American mink possess is the main cause for mortality among European minks. The key point of this study is to determine the main causes of mortality of the European mink, and what significant conservation efforts are being made to help reduce numbers of mortality. Material and Methods The method of research was conducted using a literature research on both OneSearch and ScienceDirect searching the word ‘habitat’, ‘American mink’, and ‘human-interaction’ under the Biological Conservation publication on ScienceDirect, and under the Environmental History publication on OneSearch. 462 studies were reviewed from both publications for the keywords searched, 33.2% stated that environmental causes (habitat, river drainage, pollution) were the highest mortality cause for the European mink, 34.5% stated the intrusion of the American mink reduced the highest number of European minks , and 32.3% stated human-interaction concerning trapping and poaching is the main cause of extinction. The data of the researched morality causes was then integrated into a bar graph (figure 1). Pattern of the European mink population in Western Europe was analyzed focusing on the three causes of morality stated; charting the appearance of the American mink by the first observation in 1927 whilst looking at the decline of the European mink simultaneously (T. Lode, 2001).European mink distribution was based on a capture design carried out by live-trapping on every demographic basin from Brittany to Pyrenees between 1992 and 1997 (T. Lode, 2001). Results Research conducted on both OneSearch produced 189 studies with 66 studies supporting the theory of the American mink, 63 supporting environmental causes theory, and 60 supporting the human-interaction with European minks theory. ScienceDirect yielded the additional 273 studies, with 98 to American mink, 94 to environmental causes, and 81 to human-interaction. The three categories were then totaled and yielded 462 studies; 157 (34.0%) for environmental causes, 164 (35.5%) for American mink, and 141(30.5%) for human-interaction effects. The data is summarised in a bar graph shown in Figure 1. The results reveal that the American mink has become the largest threat and main cause of mortality among the western population of European mink. Figure 1. Results of researched studies on mortality causes of the European mink categorized by, 1) environmental, 2) American mink, 3) Human-interactionDiscussionConclusion: Some conservation efforts proposed have been: protection of European mink under EU laws, introducing reserved spaces for the European mink, killing it’s cousin the American mink, conservation breeding, and restoration of habitat. If these conservation efforts aren’t being enforced urgently enough, it’s possible the European mink can go extinct in just decades (Karath, 2017).