Owing to the rapid decline of the European mink (Mustela lutreola) in France, a national conservation action plan has been initiated, in which scientific research to improve understanding of the causes of the decline is one of the primary objectives. In order to investigate the possible role of Aleutian disease parvovirus (ADV) in decline of the species, a serologic survey was conducted from March 1996 to March 2002 in 420 free-ranging individuals of six species of small carnivores distributed in eight départements of southwestern France. Antibodies to ADV were detected in 17 of 75 American mink (Mustela vison), 12 of 99 European mink, 16 of 145 polecats (Mustela putorius), four of 17 stone martens (Martes foina), one of 16 pine martens (Martes martes), and three of 68 common genets (Genetta genetta). Seroprevalence was significantly higher in American mink than in other species. Seropositive individuals with gamma globulin levels >20% were observed in four European mink, four American mink, two stone martens, and one pine marten. Geographic distribution of positive animals indicates the virus has spread to all areas where European mink are found. Furthermore, a trend of increasing prevalence seems to appear in Mustela sp. sympatric with American mink. Although further investigations are necessary to evaluate the role of ADV in decline of European mink, evidence of the virus in the wild at the levels found in our study has implications for conservation of this species.
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Vol. 40 • No. 3