Mink have had a devastating impact on indigenous British wildlife
Scientists in the South West have been studying the whiskers and claws of wild mink to try to learn more about the lifestyles of the once-captive animals.
Researchers from the University of Exeter's Cornish base in Penryn studied the carcasses of mink found in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
Their scientific studies enabled them to create a unique chemical fingerprint to help determine the creatures' diet.
American mink were sent to UK fur farms in 1929 but some ended up in the wild.
As such all wild mink currently living in the British Isles are descendants of those which either escaped by themselves or were released by animal rights activists.
The scientific studies regarding the creatures' diet have revealed that the animals are becoming increasingly reliant on seafood, leading researchers to assume that they are moving closer to the coastline in order to survive.
Wildlife biologists from the Food and Environment Research Agency have been working hard to eradicate mink, because their predatory nature has had a devastating effect on many native UK species including water voles, fish and seabirds.
They now plan to use the latest scientific findings to help eradicate the creatures from areas where they have decimated indigenous species.
Having already successfully eradicated mink from two islands - Uist and Harris - the team now plans to use the research findings to manage populations across the Outer Hebrides.
As a result of the study, the team will focus future efforts on coastal regions.
Dr Thomas Bodey, of the University of Exeter's Tremough campus, said: "The American mink is one of the most damaging invasive species living in the UK today and sadly it has a devastating effect on UK wildlife.
"We were astonished at how much we could find out by analysing the claws and whiskers of the mink and are delighted to know that our results are helping manage this problem in the Outer Hebrides."