Last year on our way south through the Alaska Panhandle, we spotted our first American mink, the animal I’ve decided to make the subject of my fourth Critter Post.
The American mink is a semi-aquatic species of mustelid, the same family as weasels and otters. Native to North America, it is very adaptable and – due to human intervention – has expanded its range to Europe and South America. It is consequently listed as Least Concern. Minks are small animals, with streamlined bodies for entering the burrows of their prey. Males typically measure 13-18 inches with 6-10-inch tails and females are about 12-15 inches with 6-8-inch tails. Minks are highly prized for their fur and are the most frequently farmed animal for fur. The brains of domestic minks are nearly 20% smaller than their wild counterparts!
Range and Habitat:
Minks are seldom found far from riverbanks, lakes, and marshes. The natural range of the American mink is throughout Alaska, Canada, and the contiguous United States except for Arizona and the more arid parts of California and the Southwest. In the 1920s and 30s it was introduced to the British Isles, continental Europe, Iceland, and South America. In Europe and Britain it is considered an invasive species because it is linked to the decline of the European mink.
Fish, crustaceans, rodents, birds, and frogs.
Owls, bobcats, and foxes are the mink’s natural predators, although human activities – fur trapping, hunting to protect fish populations – more often kill minks.
Minks are territorial animals. The males’ territories are slightly larger than the females’ territories and typically cover 1-6 kilometers long. Minks live in dens close to water and dig multiple entrances and many passageways. They often use burrows previously dug by muskrats or skunks. Minks do not form pairs but mate promiscuously. Babies are born between April and June and litters are typically about 4 kits.