American Mink (Mustela vison)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Mustelidae
Size:    Length: 19 to 24 inches (48 to 61 cm)
Weight: 1.5 to 3.5 pounds  (0.68 to 1.6 kg)
Diet: Frogs, snakes, shrews, birds, fish, insects, worms, salamanders, and sometimes rabbits and muskrats
Distribution: North America
Young:  1 to 9, once per year 
Animal Predators:  Great horned owls, bobcats, red foxes, coyotes, wolves and black bears
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Kit
Lifespan: Approximately 3 years in the wild and 10 years in captivity



        Minks purr when contented.

        A close relative of the American mink was the sea mink, but it became extinct in the 19th century from over-trapping.

        Minks are semi-aquatic, having a waterproof coat and partially webbed feet.


Minks have dark brown fur with white patches on their chin, chest and throat. They have soft, thick fur and a long, slender body. Their tail is long and bushy, and their ears are small and rounded. Males are larger than females. 



Minks are found in nearly every corner of Canada and the United States except for southern California, Arizona, southern Utah and southern New Mexico. Minks have several dens in hollow trees or in the ground along stream banks. 


Feeding Habits

At home on land or in water, minks hunt along the shore as well as underwater. They eat a variety of smaller animals, including frogs, snakes, shrews, birds, fish, insects, worms and salamanders. Large males are sometimes capable of capturing rabbits and muskrats. 



Males begin to search out females during February and March, and both sexes will have several different partners. The female gives birth in one of her fur-lined dens, usually to four or five kits but to as many as nine. Baby minks are born furless and blind after a 40 to 75 day gestation, opening their eyes only after four to five weeks. They become weaned at five to six weeks and at seven to eight weeks, go with their mother while she hunts, learning by example. By the end of the summer, the youngsters go their own way to establish territories of their own. Males are able to reproduce at 18 months, while females are able to reproduce at 12 months. 



American minks usually only come out after dark, and they are active all year round. They are social animals and have been observed playing together. Both males and females mark their territories using secretions from scent glands, as well as urine. When threatened by a predator, minks release a strong odour from their anal glands, considered by some to be even more unpleasant than that of skunks. 



The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission lists the American mink as Threatened. American minks have been imported to Europe because of the soft, luxurious quality of their fur, and many have either escaped or been released into the wild, putting the European mink at risk. The American species is more aggressive, driving European minks away from their hunting grounds. The European mink is now dangerously close to extinction. Mink are very susceptible to accumulating DDT and other pesticides in their tissues, as they eat many small animals that have consumed these substances. 



American Mink Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US