Visón Álava - Conservation of the European mink (Mustela lutreola) in Álava

LIFE00 NAT/E/007335

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Antonio MEDINA ANIEL-QUIROGA
Tel: +34945181818
Fax: +34945181754
Email: amedina@alava.net

Project description:


The European mink (Mustela lutreola) used to inhabit the courses and banks of rivers and wetlands in central and northern Europe, but now its distribution is reduced to two small sub-populations. The eastern one, in north-eastern Russia, is rapidly disappearing due to the introduction of a competitor, the American mink (M. vison). The western sub-population, is only found in the south-west of France and northern Spain, where in the last few decades its area of distribution has shrunk by some 70%. At the moment there are only about 800 adults left in an area of 40 000 km2. Experts believe that without urgent action the European mink will disappear over the next decade. The upper Ebro basin (Burgos, Soria, Alava, Rioja and Navarre) is the only region still sustaining a relatively healthy population of this species, chiefly due to the absence of its harmful competitor, the American mink. This project forms part of a coordinated Action Plan between various neighbouring regions, aimed at saving the European mink from extinction in the European Union.


The project aimed to ensure the conservation of the European mink in Alava, which is home to 15% of the population of the species in Spain. The actions to be undertaken were similar to those foreseen for the other two projects approved in 2000 for the same species in Spain. (LIFE00 NAT/E/007331 Conservation of European mink in La Rioja and LIFE00 NAT/E/007299 Conservation of European mink in Castilla y Léon). Steps were to be taken to eradicate the American mink from the region. A programme of measures to conserve the aquatic environment and the natural riverside vegetation were to be initiated to improve the natural habitat conditions of the European mink. The project also aimed to control the occurrence of diseases, pollutants and the genetic deterioration of the species. In addition, regular monitoring was to be undertaken to determine the effectiveness of these measures and the development of the population. Lastly, the project would endeavour to safeguard the future of this mammal by approving a long-term Conservation Plan and improving public awareness in its area of distribution.


The majority of the project objectives and expected results of the”Visón Álava” project have been achieved. Crucial results are as follows: - A thorough knowledge of the European mink population in Álava has been gained, the population decline has been stopped and the expansion of the American mink has been slowed down. The existence of the species, its worldwide importance, the high extinction threat, the government management and the need for undertaking actions in favour of the species have been widely disseminated. - The European mink Conservation Plan has been drafted and approved by the Provincial Council of Álava (Diputación Foral de Álava, DFA). - European mink habitats have been included in the Natura 2000 Network. In this way, 240 km of rivers, which hold 90% of the European population in the province of Álava have been declared as Special areas of conservation (pSCI) under the EU Habitats Directive. - Listing the European mink as “endangered” under regional legislation. - A wide dissemination campaign including appearances in press, TV, several videos, posters, panels, page makers, comics, leaflets, didactic packs. The project brought about an environmental revolution in the province of Álava and in the context of the local and regional governments. The actions carried out, the large number of people involved, the results achieved and the in-depth knowledge obtained about the European mink in the province of Álava as well as the management of the DFA in terms of conservation of the threatened species have brought about a milestone in the Basque Country. There have never been so many people involved or so many financial resources allocated to the management and conservation of a species in Álava and the Basque Country. The project has also implied a close collaboration among different administrations (Junta de Castilla y León, La Gobierno de la Rioja, Generalitat Cataluña, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente), working together on behalf of the conservation and recovery of the western population of the European mink. A further important aspect of the project was the coordinated work carried out with the other administrations that hold European mink populations in their territories and those responsible for the other LIFE projects on the European mink conservation: LIFE00/NAT/E/7299 in Castilla y León and LIFE00/NAT/E/7331 in La Rioja (combined actions for the species management, dissemination actions), LIFE02/NAT/E/8604 in Cataluña (Captive Breeding Centre, dissemination actions, study of the state of health of the European mink populations) and LIFE00/NAT/EE/7081 in Estonia (exchange of knowledge and management experiences). The endorsement of the Management Plan of the European mink in Álava forces the regional administration to carry out a series of guidelines and measures aimed at the species conservation in Álava so, the continuity of the actions in favour of the European mink is guaranteed. The participation of the DFA within the Working Group of the European mink also guarantees that its efforts will be in keeping with the other autonomous administrations managing the European mink territories in the Iberian Peninsula. However, there are some actions considered necessary to guarantee the suitable management of the European mink and the continuity of the species in the Iberian Peninsula. These actions will require external support and funds: - Continuity of the genetic studies of the species, carried out by the University of the Basque Country, in order to know the proximity or distance genetic between the Iberian population and the European eastern population. This knowledge will provide the management guidelines to reinforce the populations or mix them in an emergency, conserving a genetic stock viable enough of the western population. - Construction of a new Captive Breeding Centre of the western population of the European mink complementary to that of El Pont de Suert, to guarantee a minimum genetic stock that allows proper management and without risks the "ex-situ" actions towards the species. - Advanced restoration of the European mink habitat. Recovery of deteriorated riversides in order to favour the stability of the European mink stability and suitable refuges for nature breeding. - Radio-tracking of European mink specimens to have more indepth knowledge about the species behaviour. Possible population reinforcement by means of liberation of specimens from "translocations" or captive breeding. - Continuity of the dissemination tasks on a large scale.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Mammals
Biodiversity issues - Invasive species


endangered species‚  aquatic ecosystem‚  monitoring

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" ...

Target species

 Mustela lutreola     

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Dirección de Asuntos Europeos - Diputación Foral de Álava
Type of organisation Local authority
Description The beneficiary was the Departamento de Agricultura y Medio Ambiente de la Diputación Foral de Álava - Servicio de la Conservación de la Naturaleza. The Provincial Government of Álava is responsible for the Management and Administration of the Territorial Heritage of Álava, and among others environmental management and nature conservation.


Project reference LIFE00 NAT/E/007335
Duration 01-JAN-2001 to 31-DEC -2004
Total budget 383,025.00 €
EU contribution 191,513.00 €
Project location País Vasco(España)


Read more:

Brochure "El visón europeo Nuestro mamifero más amenazado" (84,4MB)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version