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Mink

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Mink are dark-coloured, semi-aquatic, carnivores of the genera Mustela, and Neovision. They are under the family Mustelidae, which also includes otters, weasels, and ferrets.

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There are two still existing species referred to as “mink”; the European mink and the American mink. The American mink is said to resemble the extinct sea mink but is much smaller.

The European mink is smaller and less adaptable than the American mink. Still, due to different variations in size, an individual mink cannot be determined as American and European without looking at the skeletal structure.

Both European and American mink were placed under the same genus Mustela, but the American mink has been reclassified under its genus, Neovison.

The American mink’s fur is famous for its use in clothing, with hunting giving way to fur farming. Their treatment of fur has been a focus of animal welfare and animal rights.

American mink population occurs in South America and Europe (including Great Britain). In the UK, it is illegal to emancipate mink in the wild, as stated in the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

Trapping is used to eliminate or control introduced American mink populations. Mink oil is used in some cosmetics and medical products, as well as to preserve, treat, and waterproof leather.

Scientific classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyMustelidae
SubfamilyMustelinae
GenusNeovison and Mustela

Species

  • Sea mink (Neovison macrodon) (extinct)
  • European mink (Mustela lutreola)
  • American mink (Neovison vison)

Characteristics

The male weighs about 2 lb 3 oz (1 kg) and is about 24 ½ in (62 cm) in length. Farm-bred males can reach 7 lb 1 oz (3.2 kg).

The female weighs about 1 lb 5 oz (600 g) and reaches a length of about 20 in (51 cm). The sizes previously mentioned do not include the tail, which can be from 5 1/16 – 9 in (12.8 – 22.8 cm).

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A mink has a rich glossy coat in its wild state, which is silky and brown-coloured. Farm-bred mink vary from almost black to white.

Its pelage is deep, rich brown, and may consist of white spots on the underpants. The pelage also consists of a dense underfur overlaid with glossy, almost-stiff guard hairs.

Reproduction

Mink are known to experience delayed implantation. Although the true gestation period is approximately 40 days, the embryo development delayed for a variable period, so that as long as 11 weeks may elapse before the litter is born. Between 45 to 52 days is normal.

Mink produce one litter per year. They usually produce between 6 – 10 kits per litter. The average lifespan of a mink in the wild is 3 years, while in captivity they are known to live up to 10 years.

Its natural predators include bobcats, great horned owls, coyotes, foxes, wolves, and humans.

Diet

Mink prey on small mammals, birds, eggs, and fish & other aquatic life. There are reports indicating adult mink eat young mink. Farm-bred mink primarily eat eggs, expired cheese, fish, turkey livers, dog food, meat and poultry slaughterhouse, and commercial foods.

Waterside habit

Mink are mostly found near water and are rarely found far lakes, riverbanks, and marshes. When roaming, they tend to follow ditches and streams.

In some countries, particularly in Iceland and Scotland, they live along the seashore. If suitable water is available, they may live in towns.

Territory

Mink are territorial animals, most especially males. A male mink displays aggression towards other males within his territory but may be less aggressive towards females. Both sexes have separate territorial, although a female’s territory may overlaps or probably be within a male’s territory.

A mink territory tends to be long, narrow, and stretch along the river banks, or around the edges of marshes or lakes. A male’s territory can be several miles long while the female’s territory is known to be smaller.

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Each territory has 1 or 2 core areas (central areas) where the mink is frequently found. The central area most have a good food supply, such as a good rabbit warren or a pool rich in fish.

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