The Amazing Mink
Mink, or Neovison mustela, is a member of the Mephitidae family which includes weasels, wolverines and fishers. Though mink and its relatives do not display the same dietary diversity of other carnivores, they are among the most powerful pound-for-pound mammalian predators in the world. The strength of the mink’s bite relative to its size is only rivaled by the Tasmanian devil and its cousin, the American weasel.
Mink are relatively small predators weighing in at 2 to 3.5 pounds with an overall length of 20-30 inches. These elongated semi-aquatic animals are very sleek and sit low to the ground with short legs. The appearance of the mink would be best described as a mix between an otter and weasel. Mink are very handsome specimens with a rich, dark chocolate brown coat and an extremely muscular physique. They are highly valued for their fur because of its luxurious appearance, stunning durability, and exceptional insulating qualities. The mink’s protective fur coupled with its unmatched aggression has allowed it to thrive in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. From the frozen glaciers of northern Alaska to the reptile -infested swamps of the Florida everglades, the mink are at home in more climates than most mammalian predators on the globe.
Mink are strictly carnivorous, preying on a wide variety wildlife. Mink love the water and much of their prey can be found in and around water. The mink’s diet includes fish, shellfish, crayfish, frogs, snakes, lizards, large insects, small rodents, rabbits, rats,muskrat, nutria, waterfowl, upland birds and eggs. Mink will also feed on carrion but prefer fresh kills. Mink will prey on animals mach larger than themselves, latching on to anything they can get their jaws locked on to; geese and swans are occasional victims.
Mink are travel and hunt in familiar circuits 3-7 miles long. These circuits hug water systems and natural drainage basins., especially lake chains and canal networks, such as those found in Pinckney, Hell, Hamburg, Ann Arbor, Milford and South Lyon. Mink don’t have permanent dens; the only time they den up for more than a day or two is when they raise there young in the spring and early summer. Most of the year mink are on the move, spending up to half of their time in the water probing every little hole in the bank in search of prey. Mink hunt day and the night, usually resting only after they have made a kill. Mink will often spend time in the dens of their prey; muskrat dens are a common location for mink to hold out for a day or two while they feed on the carcass of the den’s last tenant. While mink can be seen crossing expanses of land far from water, bank holes in creeks and rivers are the mink’s favorite hideouts.
Mink have few predators because of there fierce, aggressive style of defense. Wolf and coyote will attempt to make a meal out of the mink, but often give up after a few nasty bites to the face. Surprisingly, the most successful predator of the mink is the great horned owl. Targeting juvenile and small female mink, the owl descends from darkness in complete silence and sinks its talons into the victim before it knows it’s being attacked. The owl does not always come out on top, however; the mink’s powerful jaws can still deliver a crushing bite that drives off the owl half the time.
Human-mink conflicts are actually not that common in most of North America. When mink do create a conflict it’s usually is quite unnerving, however. Mink will devastate poultry flocks, rabbit farms, and game ranches where penned up birds have little chance of escape. Mink have also become a real nuisance around fishing piers and waterside fisheries where commercial fishing is prominent. Part of the problem is that mink love the thrill of the kill and will hunt for sport, killing far more than they consume. Tell-tale signs that an animal has been killed by a mink are bite marks at the base of the skull and the carcasses stacked neat piles that seem to signify a pride of achievements. You heard right, mink will pile up carcasses after a killing spree and gloat over the pile in satisfaction of it’s achievement.
Hear at Creature Control we enjoy the prospect of servicing customers inconvenienced by this fascinating but potentially destructive animal. It’s one of the more rare requests we get, but they are a treat to encounter. We encourage humane treatment of these animals and highly recommend live removal and relocation (in fact one of our staff members enjoys this species so much he is contemplating publishing a book on mink biology and conservation management).
If you suspect a mink is threatening your property or have any inquiries on mink call Creature Control; we’d be happy to help out.