The American mink Mustela vison, raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides and raccoon Procyon lotor are introduced carnivores in Europe. The first American minks were brought to European fur farms in the late 1920s, when also the first raccoons were released, and raccoon dogs were released in the 1930s. The numbers of American minks and raccoon dogs increased rapidly, and today they are widely distributed in Europe. The range of the raccoon is restricted to Germany and adjacent countries and Belorussia. Minks are generalist predators whereas raccoon dogs and raccoons are omnivorous. Thus, e.g. birds and their eggs form part of the diet of these species. Minks are known to have caused damage to colonial ground-nesting sea-birds. Some bird populations have, however, adapted to the presence of mink in a few years. The American mink may also have played a role in the decline of the European desman Galemys pyrenaicus in Spain and the water voleArvicola terrestris in England. It may also compete with the otter Lutra lutra, European mink Mustela lutreola and polecat M. putorius. Male American minks can mate with female European minks whose embryos may die. Hence, the American mink may be one of the reasons behind the decline of the European mink. Raccoon dogs can be locally harmful to waterfowl colonies and frogs, but their overall significance to the native fauna seems to be slight. Little is known about the predation or competition of the raccoon with the native fauna in Europe. The raccoon dog and raccoon can, however, be vectors of rabies; e.g. in Finland, the raccoon dog was the main vector of rabies during the epizootic in 1988–1989. The raccoon dog can also be a vector of e.g. sarcoptic mange and trichinosis.
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Vol. 2 • No. 3