Last summer I noticed that at least one mink was running past the south window that overlooks the brook on a semi – regular basis. Although I assumed the adult mink was hunting I never determined what it was that this sleek 20 inch long furry brown animal was after. Although I frequently meet mink down by the brook where they live in rock burrows I have only seen one approach the house and that one was visiting my compost heap. So the mystery of the mink repeatedly scurrying by the window remains unsolved. I suspect nestlings, perhaps those of the grouse might be the draw.

I have always loved these animals; for one thing they are incredibly graceful, long and thin with short legs, intense beaded eyes and whiskers that one can see from a distance. But I also like the fact that they are carnivores who kill their prey mercifully with a bite to the back of the neck.

Mink are native to the Americas but were also introduced to Europe. Mink farms are common because their fur is so valuable, and in Europe the species is in steep decline. They are related to ferrets and weasels but are larger in size. Mink are always found near bodies of water, streams, lakes or ponds but they require tree cover too.

Most mink are loners and typically only come together to breed. However, I have seen mothers with kits on a number of occasions. They are crepuscular, which means they are most active during the dawn and dusk hours, spending their time marking their territory and looking for prey.

Muskrats, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, fish, snakes, frogs and birds are all part of the mink’s diet. The European mink is also known to eat some vegetation. Leftovers from a kill are often kept in the mink’s den for later.

A Mink’s coat is covered in oil, so it repels water, and it should be noted that these creatures also have webbed feet and can swim up to a hundred feet under water.

The burrows are typically about four inches in diameter and may continue along for 10–12 feet at a depth of 2–3 feet. The nesting chamber is at the end of a four-inch tunnel, and is about a foot in diameter. It is warm, dry, and lined with grass fur and feathers. The American mink dens are characterized by a large number of entrances and twisting passages. The number of exits varies from one to eight One litter of kits is raised each year, and most are on their own at three months.

The American mink normally only vocalize during close encounters with other mink or predators. Piercing shrieks and hisses can be heard when these animals are threatened. Kits squeak repeatedly when separated from their mothers, a sound I have heard when encountering the young ones by accident.

Mink can be tamed even as adults. Lynn Rogers, a bear biologist and friend of mine in Minnesota feeds two mink bologna when they visit him at his home. The picture I am including is his; the mink’s name is Clear.

Mink. submitted photo

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