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Mink

(Mustela vison)

 

Did you know that mink are in the same family as weasels and pine martens?

Mink are part of the mustelid family. These animals live alone along riverbanks and lakeshores.

What do mink look like?

They have dark brown fur with a light colored patch of fur on their throat. Mink are long and slender and they move gracefully under water. The males are longer than females and they are usually between 16-29 inches. Their tails are quite long and bushy and make up about 1/3 of the mink’s length. Mink weigh between 1 pounds and 3 pounds.

What do mink eat?

Mink prefer to eat muskrats but will also eat crayfish, fish, frogs, small snapping turtles, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and even rabbits. They will eat as much food as possible at the sight of their kill and then they save the rest in caches back at their dens.

 

Where are mink found?

Mink are found in most of the United States except for southern California, Arizona, western Texas, and southern New Mexico and Utah. They live near fresh water.

Did you know that mink dive down as far as 16 feet?

Mink are excellent swimmers and they spend much of their time hunting in ponds and along riverbanks. The males mark their hunting territory with a foul smelling odor secreted from their glands. A male’s territory overlaps with several female territories.

 

When do mink mate?

Mink are loners except for during the mating season. They mate between January and April and the young are born in April or May. The litters are between 1-10 young. When the young are born they weigh between oz and 3/8 oz! They nurse for the first 5-6 weeks of life. The young stay with their mother until the fall.

 

Did you know that most mink that are used for the fur trade are raised on farms?

It takes 75 adult mink furs to make a full-length mink coat! Most of these animals come from mink farms where they are raised for their fur. The popularity of fur has declined over the years as people have learned the number of animals that are killed just to make one coat.

 

What are some signs of mink activity?

Look for crayfish parts that have been discarded by mink along the shoreline. Also look out for mink dens which have openings 4 inches wide along the stream banks. In the winter, mink will leave depressions in the snow where they have chased after prey. Their droppings are usually left on rocks or logs and are long cylindrically shaped. Bones and fur can often be seen on the droppings.

 

 

 

Sources

Stensaas, M. 1993. Canoe country wildlife: a field guide to the north woods and Boundary Waters. Pfeifer-Hamilton, Duluth, MN.

Whitaker, J.O. 1996. National Audubon Society field guide to North American mammals. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.