Minks are dark-colored, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals that live near water. There are 3 species of mink, but only 2 are well known--The European and the American . The American mink is larger and more adaptable than its European cousin. Additionally, another distinguishing feature, European minks have a large white patch on its upper lip, while the American species does not. Thus, any mink without such a patch can be identified with certainty as an American mink.
The American mink's fur has been highly prized for its use in clothing. Initially they were hunted but that has given way to the animal being farmed for its pelt. Of note, is that the American mink has found its way into the wild population of Europe and South America.
The abundance of the American species is believed, by some, to have contributed to the decline of the less hardy European version. Through competition, though not through hybridization, native European minks are in fact closer to polecats than to their North American cousins. Trapping is used to control or eliminate feral American mink populations. In many parts of the world American mink is considered a pest and hunted regularly.
Mink prey on fish, other aquatic life, small mammals, birds and eggs; adults may eat young mink. Mink raised on farms primarily eat expired cheese, eggs, fish, meat, poultry ,slaughterhouse by-products, dog food, and turkey livers, as well as prepared, commercial foods. A farm with 3000 minks may use as much as two tons of food per day. Due to the fact the animal is semi-aquatic, it can be located around rivers,lakes,streams and other bodies of water. Mink will prey on the small animals in these areas like chipmunks and ducks.
Owls, bobcat, and fox are the natural predators of minks. However, minks are much more frequently killed by human activity. Minks are often hunted to protect the fish population of bodies of water; they are also hit by cars and are trapped for their fur. Mink populations are also being effected by the animal,themselves. European populations are being drastically reduced due to the American version. .The larger American male can mate with European mink females earlier in the spring than the males of the same species. While there is no offspring from this union, it places additional burden on the European species because these females do not then breed again in that season. This has contributed to the decline of the European species. American minks have also been implicated in the decline of the Water Vole in the United Kingdom and linked to the decline of water fowl across their range in Europe. This is a classic example of how human involvement, the farming of the American species, has changed the ecosystem of many plants and animals. Since the European species is considered endangered, they are not farmed.
Minks are widespread in Britain's mainland, except in the mountainous regions of Scotland, Wales and the Lake District. They are also found in the Isles of Arran and Lewis. In Ireland they are less common. In North America they are mostly found in the northern half of the continent.
Minks like to live near water and are seldom found far from riverbanks, lakes and marshes. Even when roaming, they tend to follow streams and ditches. Sometimes they leave the water altogether for a few hundred metres, especially when looking for rabbits, one of their favorite foods. In some places, particularly in the lowlands of Scotland and in Iceland, they have become a problem. Since they live along the seashore in those areas, they disrupt the food chain. Sometimes they are known to live in towns, if suitable water is available. They wander in search of food at all times of the day.
Minks are very territorial animals. A male mink will not tolerate another male within its territory but appears to be less aggressive towards females. Generally, the territories of both male and female animals are separate but a female's territory may sometimes overlap with that of a male.
The territories, which tend to be long and narrow, stretch along river banks, or around the edges of lakes or marshes. Territory sizes vary, but they can be several miles long. Female territories are smaller than those of the male.
Each territory has one or two central areas (core areas) where the mink spends most of its time. The core area is usually associated with a good food supply, such as a pool rich in fish, or a good rabbit warren. The animal may stay in its core area, which can be quite small, for several days at a time but it also makes excursions to the ends of its territory. These excursions seem to be associated with the defense of the territory against intruders. It is likely that the mink checks for any signs of a hostile mink and leaves its droppings (scats) redolent of its personal scent to reinforce its territorial rights.
Uses Of Mink
Mink pelts are used to make a variety of items including hats and coats. Some mink coats can cost upwards of $10,000 dollars depending on the size and quality. Mink oil is used in some medical products and cosmetics, as well as to treat, preserve and waterproof leather.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Mustelidae
- Genus: Mustela