American Mink

Mustela vison
Chuck Fergus

Mink is a semi-aquatic member of  the family Mustelidae. Other mustelids include weasels, martens, fishers, wolverines, badgers,skunks and otters. Mink are found over most of the northern hemisphere in both Europe and North America. They live on the edges of lakes, streams and rivers in forested areas.  

Adult males average two feet in length, including an 8 inch tail. They weigh 1½ to 2 pounds. Females are 10  to 15 percent smaller than males and up to half a pound  lighter. Body configuration resembles that of a weasel: short legs; long, bushy tail; long, sinuous neck and body; short head; and pointed muzzle. A mink’s coat is thick, full and soft. A short, tight layer of underfur is covered with longer guard hairs, which give the pelt its luster. Colors range from russet to a deep, chocolate brown.  Unlike some weasels, the mink does not turn white in winter.  

Mink have excellent hearing and sight, and a good sense of smell. On land, they travel at a slow, arch-backed walk or a bounding lope, which they can keep up for miles. They swim and dive with ease; a webbing of stiff  hairs between the toes of their hind feet helps propel  them through water. Mink are most active at night and  early morning, although they sometimes venture out  during the day as well. Like most mustelids, they are agile and fierce fighters, killing prey with a hard bite to the back of the skull. Prey includes muskrats, mice, rabbits, shrews, fish, frogs, crayfish, insects, snakes, waterfowl and other birds, eggs and domestic poultry. Generally, a mink is an opportunist, feeding on whatever is most easily caught or found; thus, it might avoid fighting to kill a healthy adult muskrat if, say, crayfish were abundant and easily captured. Mink occasionally kill more than they can eat. In winter, they cache carcasses and revisit them to feed.

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Pennsylvania Game Commission
Bureau of Wildlife Management
Attn: Mammal Atlas Coordinator
2001 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110
MammalAtlas@pa.gov
Pennsylvania Game Commission
Bureau of Wildlife Management
717-787-5529