Individual differences in stereotypic behaviour predict individual differences in the nature and degree of enrichment use in caged American mink

Environmental enrichment (EE) reduces stereotypic behaviour (SB), but typically only partially. Using American mink (n = 17) as models, we tested the hypotheses that the effectiveness of EE reflects the degree to which subjects utilise it, and also the SB’s degree of ‘establishment’ (its frequency and within-bout predictability). In Non-Enriched cages, our subjects performed Carnivora-typical […]

Responses of mink to auditory stimuli: Prerequisites for applying the ‘cognitive bias’ approach

The aim of the study was to determine and validate prerequisites for applying a cognitive (judgement) bias approach to assessing welfare in farmed mink (Neovison vison). We investigated discrimination ability and associative learning ability using auditory cues. The mink (n = 15 females) were divided into two groups (High, n = 8; Low, n = […]

Sleeping tight or hiding in fright? The welfare implications of different subtypes of inactivity in mink

Effects of sub-optimal housing on inactivity vary across species and experiments, probably because inactivity is heterogeneous, reflecting both positive states (e.g. relaxation) and negative ones (e.g. fear). We therefore aimed to identify specific subtypes of inactivity that could indicate poor welfare in mink, by comparing their behaviour in enriched and non-enriched conditions (the former having […]

Early transfer of mated females into the maternity unit reduces stress and increases maternal care in farm mink

Mated mammals on farms are typically transferred to another housing environment prior to delivery. We investigated whether the timing of this transfer – EARLY (Day −36), INTERMEDIATE (Day −18), or LATE (Day −3) relative to the expected day of birth (Day 0) – affects maternal stress, maternal care and the early kit vitality in farmed […]

Environmentally enriching American mink (Neovison vison) increases lymphoid organ weight and skeletal symmetry, and reveals differences between two sub-types of stereotypic behaviour

Enrichment studies for wild carnivores (e.g., in zoos) are often short-term, use enrichments of unknown motivational significance, and focus on glucocorticoids and stereotypic behaviour (SB), ignoring other stress-relevant variables. Our study assessed the broad behavioural and physiological effects of enriching American mink—a model carnivore—with preferred stimuli long-term, and investigated the welfare implications of individual differences […]

Personality matters: Consistency of inter-individual variation in shyness-boldness across non-breeding and pre-breeding season despite a fall in general shyness levels in farmed American mink (Neovison vison)

Individuals of the same species vary consistently in their behaviour across time and context, and this is often referred to as animal personality. In this study, we investigate animal personality based on the definition of personality traits as underlying dispositional factors, which are linked to biological internal factors that are stable and perhaps heritable. Although […]

The concept of behavioural needs in contemporary fur science: do we know what American mink (Mustela vison) really need?

This paper discusses the ethical implications of applying the concept of behavioural needs to captive animals. This is done on the basis of analysing the scientific literature on farmed mink and their possible need for swimming. In the wild, American mink (Mustela vison) are semi-aquatic predators, lending initial support to the claim that captive mink […]

Towards a taxonomy of stereotypic behaviours in the American mink (Neovison vison), a model Carnivore: Homogeneous or heterogeneous?

Stereotypic behaviours (SBs) are sometimes assumed homogeneous, despite their diverse morphologies, as if sharing a common aetiology. However, if different SB forms are instead heterogeneous, they may have different causes, potentially impacting how best to prevent or manage them. We therefore conducted two exploratory studies with mink (Neovison vison) to investigate whether ‘loco’ SBs (locomotor […]

Mate choice screening in captive solitary carnivores: The role of male behavior and cues on mate preference and paternity in females of a model species, American mink (Neovison vison)

Mate choice studies suggest that choosy females benefit from increased fecundity, litter size, and offspring survival. Thus, providing females with the opportunity to choose among potential mates, deemed genetically suitable based on studbook data, might improve breeding management in production and zoo animals and thereby the sustainability of captive populations. Investigating mate preference via odor […]