Because of the rapid decline of the endangered European mink (Mustela lutreola) populations in France, a national conservation program has been put into action, including research to understand the causes of decline. As part of this research, concentrations of eight anticoagulant rodenticides were examined in livers from 122 carcasses of four species of free-ranging mustelids collected between 1990 and 2002 in southwestern France. Bromadiolone residue was found in all species and 9% of the sample (one of 31 European mink, three of 47 American mink [Mustela vison], five of 33 polecats [Mustela putorius], and two of 11 European otters [Lutra lutra]). Liver concentrations ranged from 0.6 μg/g to 9.0 μg/g. Chlorophacinone residue was found in two species and 4% of the sample (in four of the American mink and in one of the otters), with liver concentrations ranging from 3.4 μg/g to 8.5 μg/g. Two polecats and one American mink had lesions and liver residues indicating bromadiolone was directly responsible for their death. However, most of our study animals survived secondary poisoning until they were caught; this study certainly underestimates the extent of fatal exposure of mustelids to rodenticides. Moreover, anticoagulant poisoning could increase their vulnerability to other causes of death. The current status of the endangered European mink population is such that any additional risk factor for mortality is important, and it is thus urgent to monitor and reduce the extensive use of bromadiolone and chlorophacinone against field rodents in France.
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