Protecting Wild Things and Wild Places
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Mink - Fast Facts
Order - Carnivora
Family - Mustelidae
Wild mink are adaptable to a wide range of climates, and this species is far more common than most people realize. Efficient predators, mink are quick on land, skilled swimmers, and capable tree climbers. They are often found in habitat types suitable for muskrats, and they are often taken in traps set for muskrats. Mink are usually shy, but they can become bold when their curiosity is aroused. Mink are not sociable with others of their kind, except during the breeding season, and avoidance or fighting between mink is common.
Mink have 34 teeth, with 4 prominent canine teeth to help in the killing of prey species. Mink have rather long and supple bodies with relatively short legs. There are 5 toes on each foot which have partial webbing between toes. Tails are fully furred.
Males are larger than females. Overall lengths of males are 20 to 30 inches, and females measure 16 to 21 inches. Male weights exceed 3 pounds in many areas and females usually weigh 1 1/2 to 2 pounds.
Mink fur is short and dense. Shades of color vary somewhat according to region, and individuals. Most shades of color are chocolate to almost black. Patches of white fur are typical on the chins of most mink, and many mink exhibit patches of white fur on throats, chests and bellies. These small patches are irregular in shape, and vary with the individual. In some areas, occasional mink have a light colored and wooly underfur. This is evident on the lower backs of the mink. These pelts are referred to as "cotton" mink, and these pelts have lesser value.
Mink glands are present near the anal area under the skin of both male and female mink. Musk is sometimes released when the mink is excited or stressed. The odor is powerful and unpleasant.
Breeding occurs over much of the mink range during late February or early March. Males attempt to find several females during this short season. The males usually abandon the females after breeding takes place.
Females have one litter per year, usually raising about 4 young. Gestation times vary from 40 to 75 days, due to a delayed implantation process.
Females raise their young entirely by themselves. Dens in abandoned muskrat dens, hollow logs, and rock piles are common. Mink do not usually dig their own dens, but they sometimes burrow into exposed muskrat and beaver lodges above the waterline for denning purposes. Many female mink seem to seek out secluded ponds or small streams with an abundant food supply and good protection to raise their young.
Male mink have territories or ranges much larger than females. Males seem to be constantly on the move, covering miles in a single day. Females often restrict their travels at night to 20 acres or so in marsh habitats, and they seldom travel further than 100 years up or down stream from their dens near rivers or creeks.
The males seem to have routes that might cover 25 miles or more. These males have any number of dens that they use when they are in the area, or feel like resting. It appears that males commonly store food in some of these dens for later use.
Many trappers think that males return from their travels about once a week, and follow nearly the exact same route, crossing streams at the same places, and investigating the same brush piles or undercut banks for food. Holes, hollow logs, rock piles, and brush piles interest many mink as protected places to hunt.
Mink are capable at trailing or stalking prey species, but it appears that they are usually opportunistic feeders who pursue prey after they surprise and startle the prey into flight. Mink hunt and travel mostly at night, but they are occasionally active during the day, especially just before storms or when it is raining or snowing. During periods of extreme cold or deep snow, mink seem to stay near their dens. At times, they will live in dens with underwater accesses and do the bulk of their hunting under the ice.
Mink kill a variety of prey species, including muskrats, crayfish, frogs, rabbits, fish, birds, snakes, grasshoppers, and water beetles. Mink often catch fish and have also been known to enter chicken houses and kill chickens.
Some individual mink appear to kill muskrats with regularity, while other individual mink do not appear to kill muskrats at all. A mature muskrat can surely give a mink a battle in a tight place, or when cornered. Many mink seem to prefer easier and safer prey. However, muskrat seems to be a preferred food for mink, and virtually all mink will scavage dead muskrats if they are hungry and the meat is fresh. They are capable of catching a muskrat in the water because they use all four feet for propulsion, and the muskrat only uses its back feet for propulsion, with the tail acting more as a rudder. Mink probably service the muskrat resource more than other species by killing weakened or diseased muskrats. Evidence suggests that mink prey heavily upon muskrats when muskrats are diseased, and this may help prevent the spreading of these diseases to healthy individuals.
• Male mink can reach 30 inches in length, and weigh over 3 pounds.
• They have 34 teeth, with 4 prominent canine teeth.
• Mating occurs during February and March with gestation from 40 to 75 days. After breeding, the male abandons the female, who raise the litter entirely by themselves.
• Mink live up to 7 years, with worn teeth being an age indicator.
Tracks and Scat
Mink are found from the edge of the tundra all across Canada and Alaska to Florida, Texas and California. This species might be absent in Arizona.
Mink are usually shy and avoid humans, but at times, exhibit boldness whentheir curiosity is triggered.
Although mink are sometimes found travelingor living far from water, most prefer the habitats found along the shores of streams,lakes, marshes, canals, and ponds. Mink usually hug the shores as theytravel, and prefer staying on dry land when they have a choice. At times, an obstaclesuch as a protruding rock or log may cause the mink to detour into the water.
Mink are preyed upon by owls, fox, coyotes, bobcats and dogs. Internalparasites include flukes, roundworms, and tapeworms. External parasites includefleas, ticks and lice. Mink are vulnerable to distemper, parvo enteritis,encephalitis, and rabies.
A 7 year old mink is considered old; and worn teeth are an indiction of ag e.