mink, semiaquatic carnivorous mammal of the genus Mustela, closely related to the weasel and highly prized for its fur. One species, Mustela vison, is found over most of North America and another, M. lutreola, inhabits Europe—where it is now rare except in Russia—and central Asia. The mink has a slender, arched body, with a long neck, short legs, and a bushy tail. The fur is thick and shiny; in wild strains it is rich brown all over the body, except for a white throat patch. Like other members of the weasel family, minks have musk glands that produce an acrid secretion. Excellent swimmers, they usually live near water, where they catch much of their food. The American mink feeds on aquatic mammals, such as muskrat, as well as fish, frogs, crustaceans, and birds. It is about 20 to 28 in. (51-71 cm) long, including the 7 to 9 in. (18-23 cm) tail. Much of the mink used in the fur trade is bred and raised on farms, where many color varieties have been produced. Descendants of escaped farm animals have established mink populations where none previously existed, e.g., in Great Britain and Iceland. Minks are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Mustelidae.

There are two living species of "mink," the American Mink and the European Mink. The extinct Sea Mink is related to the American Mink, but is much larger. All three species of mink are dark-colored, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, which also includes the weasels and the otters. The American Mink is larger, and more adaptable than the European Mink. It is sometimes possible to distinguish the European and American species because the American Mink usually has a large white patch on its upper lip, while the European Mink always has one. Any mink without such a patch can be identified with certainty as an American Mink, but an individual with such a patch, if encountered in continental Europe, cannot be certainly identified without looking at the skeleton.

The American Mink's fur has been highly prized for its use in clothing, with hunting giving way to farming. Its treatment has also been a focus of animal welfare activism. American Mink have found their way into the wild in Europe (including Great Britain) and South America, after being released from mink farms by animal rights activists or otherwise escaped from captivity. They are believed by some to have contributed to the decline of the less hardy European Mink through competition (though not through hybridization -- native European mink are in fact closer kin to European Polecats than to their North American cousins). Trapping is used to control or eliminate feral American Mink populations.

Mink oil is used in some medical products and cosmetics, as well as to treat, preserve and waterproof leather.



The male weighs about 1 kg (2.25 lbs) and is about 24 inches in length. Farm bred males can reach 7 lbs. The female weighs about 600g (1.25 lbs) and reaches a length of about 20 inches. The sizes above do not include the tail which can be from 5 to 9 inches.


The mink's rich glossy coat in its wild state is brown, but farm bred mink can vary from white to almost black and this is reflected in the British wild mink. Their pelage is deep, rich brown, with or without white spots on the underparts, and consists of a dense, soft underfur overlaid with dark, glossy, almost stiff, guard hairs.

Breeding and gestation

The breeding season lasts April to May. Mink show the curious phenomenon of delayed implantation. Although the true gestation period is 39 days, the embryo may stop developing for a variable period, so that as long as 76 days may elapse before the litter arrives. Between 45 and 52 days is normal. There is only one litter per year. They may have between six and ten cubs or kittens per litter.


They have been known to live for several years.

Food preferences

They like fish, small mammals and birds (especially eels, rabbits and water fowl). Occasionally they eat crayfish.


Their main predator is humans, who kill millions of minks each year for fur, also because minks are predators, draining rivers of its fish and ect. Also there are several cases where cats gang up against minks if they come close to residential areas.


Mink are widespread in Britain's mainland, except in the mountainous regions of Scotland, Wales and the Lake District. They are also found in the Isles of Arran and Lewis. In Ireland they are less common.

Waterside habits

Minks like to live near water and are seldom found far from riverbanks, lake and marshes. Even when roaming, they tend to follow streams and ditches. Sometimes they leave the water altogether for a few hundred meters, especially when looking for rabbits, one of their favourite foods. In some places, particularly in Scotland and in Iceland, where they have become a problem, they live along the seashore. Sometimes they live in towns, if suitable water is available.

If something like a large weasel or small otter is seen, near a lake or a river, or on the sea shore, it may well be a mink. Unlike the otter, which is only active at night when there is no danger of human disturbance, the mink is about at all hours, even when people are in evidence.

It is difficult to estimate the number of mink in Britain today. A mink needs several miles of waterside to make its home and, considering the thousands of miles of waterways and courses throughout Britain, there must be thousands of mink in Britain.


Minks are very territorial animals. A male mink will not tolerate another male within its territory, but appears to be less aggressive towards females. Generally, the territories of both male and female animals are separate, but a female's territory may sometimes overlap with that of a male. Very occasionally it may be totally within a male's.

The territories, which tend to be long and narrow, stretch along river banks, or round the edges of lakes or marshes. Sizes vary, but they can be several miles long. Female territories are smaller than those of the male.

Each territory has one or two central areas (core areas) where the mink spends most of its time. The core area is usually associated with a good food supply, such as a pool rich in fish, or a good rabbit warren. The mink may stay in its core area, which can be quite small, for several days at a time, but it also makes excursions to the ends of its territory. These excursions seem to be associated with the defence of the territory against intruders. It is likely that the mink checks for any signs of a strange mink and leaves droppings (scats) redolent of its personal scent to reinforce its territorial rights.


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