Mink are found throughout the United
States, appearing in parts of every state except Arizona. They are also
present in most of Canada, including an introduced population on Newfoundland.
Only along the Arctic coast and some offshore islands are they absent.
Mink have also been inadvertently
introduced to the British Isles, where they escaped from fur farms in the
1960's. As a non-native predator their effects on native wildlife there
Although mink are found throughout
North America, they tend to frequent forested areas that are in close proximity
to water. Streams, ponds, and lakes, with some sort of brushy or rocky
cover nearby are considered optimal territory.
These animals are found in the following
types of habitat: savanna or grassland, forest, lakes and ponds;
rivers and streams, coastal, marsh.
700 to 1600 g
(24.64 to 56.32 oz)
460 to 700 mm
(18.11 to 27.56 in)
Mink fur is usually dark brown with
white patches on the chin, chest, and throat areas. The fur is soft and
thick, with oily guard hairs that waterproof the animal's coat . The body
is long and slender with short legs and a pointy, flat face. The toes are
partially webbed, showing the mink's semi-aquatic nature. Body length is
usually around 2 feet or 610 mm with up to half of this length being
the tail. Females, on average, are substantially smaller than males. Adult
females weigh between 0.7 to 1.1 kg, while males range from 0.9 to 1.6
kilograms. Body length varies as well, with males measuring from 580-700
mm and females from 460-575 mm.
Breeding interval: Breeding
occurs once yearly.
Breeding season: Mating occurs
during the winter months.
Number of offspring: 1 to 8
Gestation period: 40 to 75 days
Time to weaning: 6 weeks (average)
Time to independence: 6 to 10 months
Age at sexual or reproductive maturity:
10 months (average)
During the winter, female mink become
fertile and mate with one or more males (who are also promiscuous).
Once a female is impregnated, her
gestation period varies from 40 to 75 days. The young are born in late
spring (April or May), with litter sizes usually ranging between 1 to 8
individuals. Each newborn weighs 8-10 grams and appears pink and wrinkled,
with a thin coat of white fur covering the body.
The young open their eyes at three
and a half weeks and are weaned at a month and a half. They remain with
the mother through the summer until fall, when they leave to establish
their own territories. Both males and females begin mating at ten months.
Females nurse and care for their young
until they reach independence.
The maximum lifespan for a mink is
usually around 10 years.
Mink are primarily solitary animals,
with males being particularly intolerant of one another. They mark the
boundaries of their home range using musky secretions from enlarged anal
glands. They are mostly active at night, especially near dawn and dusk.
Mink are also skilled swimmers and climbers. In searching for food, they
can swim up to 30 meters (100 feet) underwater and dive to depths of 5
meters. Mink dig their burrows in the banks of rivers, lakes and streams,
or they may utilize the old dens of other mammals, such as muskrats. Mink
may line the interior of their home with dried grass and leaves, as well
as with the fur from past prey.
Communication and Perception
Mink communicate using a variety of
cues, including chemical, visual, and auditory signals. They are fairly
quiet, but rely heavily on chemical signaling for communicating territorial
boundaries and reproductive status.
Mink have excellent senses of vision,
smell, and hearing.
The diet of mink varies with the season.
During the summer it consists of crayfish and small frogs, along with small
mammals such as shrews, rabbits, mice, and muskrats. Fish, duck and other
water fowl provide additional food choices. In the winter, they primarily
prey on mammals.
Primary Diet: carnivore (eats
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians;
reptiles; fish; aquatic crustaceans.
Mink have few natural enemies. They
are occasionally killed by coyotes, bobcats and other carnivores, but their
main threat remains humans. Mink, like most mustelids, are aggressive and
fearless predators. They do not hesitate to defend themselves against animals
larger than themselves. Mink may be occasionally taken by birds of prey,
or young in a nest may be taken by snakes, but they are agile, cryptic
in coloration, and secretive in nature, thereby avoiding most predation.