Prey distribution, potential landscape supplementation, and urbanization affect occupancy dynamics of American mink in streams

Adam A. Ahlers, Edward J. Heske, Robert L. Schooley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Land-use change can reduce and isolate suitable habitat generating spatial variation in resource availability. Improving species distribution models requires a multi-scale understanding of resource requirements and species’ sensitivities to novel landscapes. Objectives: We investigated how the spatial distribution of supplementary habitats (permanent wetlands), urbanization, water depths, and distribution of a key prey species (muskrat; Ondatra zibethicus) influence occupancy dynamics of American mink (Neovison vison). Although mink are widespread across North America and a destructive invasive species in Europe, South America, and Asia, we have a limited understanding of factors affecting their spatial distribution. Methods: We used 6 years of presence–absence data (2007–2012) to evaluate occupancy dynamics of mink at 58–90 stream sites along an urbanization gradient in Illinois, USA. We predicted negative relationships between stream occupancy and urban land cover and distance from permanent wetlands, and positive associations with muskrat presence, water depth, and riparian zone width. Results: Contrary to our hypothesis, stream sites closer to permanent wetlands had lower occupancy and colonization rates for mink. Occupancy and colonization rates were higher at sites with deeper water, and colonization rates were related negatively to urbanization. Mink were more likely to leave stream habitat if muskrats were not present and permanent wetlands were nearby. Conclusion: Factors interplaying across multiple scales influenced occupancy dynamics of mink in stream habitat in a highly modified landscape. Our results highlight the importance of considering both direct measures of prey availability and the spatial distribution of supplementary habitats to improve habitat-selection models for carnivores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1601-1613
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • American mink
  • Habitat selection
  • Landscape supplementation
  • Muskrat
  • Neovison vison
  • Urbanization
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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