The European mink (Mustela lutreola) has undergone a dramatic decline and is one of the most endangered mammals in the world. The invasive American mink (Neovison vison) is considered the main factor for this decline. However, the American mink’s introduction and the subsequent ecological concurrence of the two species cannot solely explain the decline or disappearance of the European mink. Aleutian mink disease virus (AMDV) is the main health problem in fur farming worldwide, causing varied clinical syndromes that depend on the viral strain and host factors. Infection with AMDV has been speculated to contribute to the decline of the European mink, but a detailed study has not been performed. To assess the potential effects of AMDV infection on the conservation of the European mink, we surveyed AMDV antibody in samples from 492 native European mink and 1,735 feral American mink collected over 16 yr. The antibody prevalence in European mink was 32%. There were no statistically significant differences in antibody prevalence between sexes, among years, or among weight classes. For recaptured European mink, incidence of seroconversion (negative to positive) was 0.46 cases per animal-year at risk. For positive animals, the incidence of conversion from positive to negative was 0.18 cases per animal-year at risk. In 1,735 feral American minks, the overall prevalence was 32.4% and varied among the six wild populations studied. Infection with AMDV appears to be endemic, distributed across the entire ranges of both species, and no effects on the population dynamics of either species were observed.
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Vol. 52 • No. 1