American mink American mink

A member of the 'weasel" family (Mustelidae, which includes ferrets, weasels, otters, wolverines, martens, fishers, mink, and badgers), this semi-aquatic animal is a carnivore, feeding exclusively on other animals. It differs from the European mink by overall larger size and the length of its tail.

Fun Critter Facts

(American mink tails are longer), and its more aggressive and effective hunting habits.  The American mink is the only mink extant in North America, following the extinction of the much larger sea mink native to a very restricted area (Gulf of Maine) of the northeast coast around 1860-1870.   

Photos taken by Mark Zornes, Green River Wildlife Management Coordinator

- American mink are common in semi-aquatic habit
ats throughout most of North America north of Mexico, excluding the Desert Southwest and Texas.  They have been introduced to portions of Europe as an additional furbearer, but are having a significant impact to wild European mink and other species.  For this reason, they are largely unprotected and considered a nuisance with no protection throughout much of that continent.

- When disturbed or cornered by a perceived predator, mink will defend themselves vigorously and will emit a foul smelling scent and may loudly screech or scream.  The scream has been described as the "Banshee's wail."  The odor of mink scent has been described as being worse than that of a skunk in close quarters.  Personal experience with numerous wild mink suggests this is indeed true (but I'll leave that for another tale).  - As mentioned above, mink are pure carnivores, feeding solely on other animals.  They are particularly good at hunting and killing the much larger muskrat, but probably eat more mice, voles, fish, and marsh birds.  They eat a variety of species ranging from crustaceans to fish, cottontails, voles, muskrats, mice, and a variety of birds (including a few grouse and domestic fowl).  Mink have long been an enemy of those that raise chickens, although they are less prone to "mass killings" as skunks and raccoons.

- Wild mink in Wyoming typically breed in April and the female is capable of delayed implantation, only fertilizing her eggs when conditions are appropriate to raise young.  In this species, this trait is usually a very short term affair.  Young, usually around four or five, are born around mid June.  A litter may have multiple sires, as mink form no pair bonds. Young are weaned after about 5 weeks, and they begin hunting on their own at about 8 weeks,  By the following spring, they are totally on their own and seeking their own home ranges.

-  Mink, given their modest size (larger than long-tailed weasels, but typically smaller than adult pine martens), fall victim to a host of larger predators, ranging from larger raptors (e.g. great horned owls and red-tailed hawks) to foxes and coyotes.     

- American mink are the most "farmed" of all furbearers, being raised for their luxurious pelts.  Farmed mink are "genetically inferior" to wild mink and have limited ability to survive in the wild if they escape from captivity, although some researchers are concerned about escape incident effects on local wild populations.  Mink are one of the most popular, but difficult to catch, species pursued by fur trappers.  

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