Last month I posted a trail cam video of a fisher and I mentioned that it was a member of the mustelid (Mustelidae) family. Mustelids include all those animals you think of as long and slinky — ferrets, weasels, mink, otters and the like, as well as badgers.
(I was going to include skunks in that description, but I just learned that skunks have been reclassified to their own family. A good reminder to never rely on info you memorized decades ago.)
Today I want to introduce you to another member of that family: the American mink (Neovison vison).
Mink are a medium-size mustelid — about .6 to 1 kilogram — bigger than many weasels, but not as large as otters. They have semi-webbed feet and non-retractable claws which make them excellent swimmers and climbers. With those skills, these semi-aquatic carnivores can prey on fish, crayfish, frogs, small mammals, birds, and eggs. They don’t stray far from water and often follow streams or gullies when traveling.
American mink are the source of that rich silky pelt we think of when we talk about mink coats and stoles. Unfortunately for them, their dense underfur and dark glossy coats are not only warm and waterproof, but also beautiful to humans. While Indigenous peoples have long trapped and used mink for clothing and accessories, the commercial demand for pelts eventually outpaced the wild mink population and led to an entire industry of mink farming, a practice which has raised the ire of animal activists.
Aside: No matter how opposed you might be to mink farming (or any other captive wildlife), please DO NOT encourage organizations that free the animals. Not only do most of the animals die terrible deaths, but letting loose hundreds or thousands of carnivores all at once, wreaks havoc on the local environment and nearby farms. Longtime readers might remember, I wrote a very angry rant to animal liberationists who freed (thus destroyed) a pack of captive wild wolves.
We’ve spotted the mink a handful of times on our property and have seen signs of its feeding near the lake. But our first video capture surprised us! We have a pipe that runs under our house. It starts under the front porch and comes out under our back screen porch about a foot above the ground.
The front porch end is at grade. At some point we noticed that every time we pushed the gravel up against the hole, we’d come out a day or so later and it would be dug out. Since we already had a security cam over the porch, we re-positioned it to point to the hole and then waited …..
We’ve never seen the mink there again, but the hole continues to be dug out almost every night by another animal, which makes us laugh every time because we have no idea why it’s doing that. In fact, that animal showed up minutes after this video was taken. I’ll just leave that as a teaser and post more video later.
Our second video encounter was more predictable. We had captured a short video of the mink exploring around our small deck near the dock. So when we found a dead fish washed up on the shore, so we put it on the deck to see if we could entice it back. Sure enough, that night ….
What surprised us about that shot was that the mink carried the fish away. We expected to catch it (or maybe an otter or raccoon) eating it on the spot. I mean, look at the size of that fish compared to the mink!
So far, that’s it for cam captures of the mink. But we have found footprints in the snow and other signs, so know it’s in the area, hopefully breeding and thriving here in our little slice of wilderness.
** Header photo taken by me in our side yard on a very foggy morning. It’s the first time we ever saw it and remains one of my favourite shots.