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Habitat utilization by sympatric European mink Mustela lutreola and polecats Mustela putorius in south-western France


, : Habitat utilization by sympatric European mink Mustela lutreola and polecats Mustela putorius in south-western France. Acta Theriologica 52(1): 1-12

The European mink Mustela lutreola Linnaeus, 1761 and the European polecat Mustela putorius Linnaeus, 1758 are related species sympatric in southwestern France. The European mink is rapidly disappearing whereas the polecat maintains good populations. Seasonal habitat use of both species was compared in the Landes de Gascogne region to identify if some vulnerability factors of the European mink were associated with habitats occupied by this mustelid. Potential habitats were mapped using a satellite picture and 12 main types of habitats were defined. Animal locations were recorded by radiotracking 9 European mink and 14 polecats from March 1996 to August 1999. Resting animals were located by triangulation, and, when possible, resting places were described. Animals in activity were tracked by continuous monitoring. Data collected revealed a strong preference of European mink for flooded habitats, particularly open marshes, flooded woodlands and moorlands. They seldom left the corridor of the riparian forest and their resting places were mainly in flooded environments, above ground (under herbs or bushes) or in cavities between tree roots. European polecats were less tightly linked to wetlands. Most of their locations were in the pine forests outside the valleys and their resting places were mainly in burrows. The strong specialisation of European mink in aquatic habitats is probably one of the main reasons for its decline because wetlands suffer drastic damages throughout all of its range. Maintaining adequate water levels is crucial for satisfying habitat requirements of mink.

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