The American Mink is a semi-aquatic species found along streams, lakes, swamps and marshes. Mink will den under stones and tree roots or in abandoned beaver or muskrat houses. They may even dig their own burrows of about 4 inches in diameter and 10 to 12 feet in length. The burrows are warm, dry and lined with straw and feathers. The male home range may be a half a mile or more along the banks of waterways.
The American mink is native to North America and common in every US state except Arizona and dry areas of the southwest. Introduced in Britain in 1929, they are now found throughout Britain and Europe due to accidental escapes and intentional releases.
Their soft and thick fur is usually a dark brown with white patches on their chin, chest and throat. Oily outer hairs provide water proofing. Long slender bodies allow easy navigation through water aided by partially webbed toes. Minks are about two feet in length of which about half is just the tail. Males are larger than females weighing about 20% more.
A mink can cover ground at four miles per hour and can climb trees. Undulating movements propel it through the water where they can swim for three hours in warm water without stopping but in cold water, a mink can die in only 27 minutes.
Mink rely primarily on sight when foraging but they are also able to hear ultrasonic vocalizations of rodents. Mink are nocturnal and hunt during the night. They are carnivorous eating fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and small mammals. A mink can kill a larger bird such as a cormorant or seagull by drowning. Minks will kill snakes but will not eat them.
Mating season begins in February and lasts for three weeks. The American mink is the only other mammal besides the striped skunk that mates in spring but delays implantation to select the best time and place for birth. Babies are born from April to June with an average litter size of four kits. Kits are blind at birth and weigh a little more than a quarter. Kits are weaned at five weeks, and disperse in autumn.
Tri County Wildlife Care, a local nonprofit started in 1994, is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of our native wildlife and helping our community live in balance with wildlife. They envision a world where wildlife and people thrive together. For more information call (209) 283-3245, or visit pawspartners.org.