Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) are highly toxic compounds that are exclusively used for the control of rodent pests. Despite their defined use, they are nonetheless found in a large number of non-target species indicating widespread penetration of wildlife. Attempts to quantify the scale of problem are complicated by non-random sampling of individuals tested for AR contamination. The American mink (Neovison vison) is a wide ranging, non-native, generalist predator that is subject to wide scale control efforts in the UK. Exposure to eight ARs was determined in 99 mink trapped in NE Scotland, most of which were of known age. A high percentage (79%) of the animals had detectable residues of at least one AR, and more than 50% of the positive animals had two or more ARs. The most frequently detected compound was bromadiolone (75% of all animals tested), followed by difenacoum (53% of all mink), coumatetralyl (22%) and brodifacoum (9%). The probability of mink exposure to ARs increased by 4.5% per month of life, and was 1.7 times higher for mink caught in areas with a high, as opposed to a low, density of farms. The number of AR compounds acquired also increased with age and with farm density. No evidence was found for sexual differences in the concentration and number of ARs. The wide niche and dietary overlap of mink with several native carnivore species, and the fact that American mink are culled for conservation throughout Europe, suggest that this species may act as a sentinel species, and the application of these data to other native carnivores is discussed.
Keywords: Age; Contaminants; Exposure risks; Land use; Mustelid.
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