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American Mink

American Mink
Mustela vison
(Order Carnivora;  Family Mustelidae)

American Mink, adult.

Diagnosis:  The American Mink have long, slender rich fur on their bodies.  A long neck, little short legs and feet that are slightly webbed enabling them to be good swimmers.  This coat they wear is waterproof, insulated, and helps them to be buoyant!  They have a very dark blackish-tawny pelage (coat) and that is lighter on the ventral side.  They range in size from  30.5 - 43.2 cm in length and .7 kg to 1.36 kg in weight.  They usually have some white under their chin and some spots on their belly.  Mink have been confused with otters, weasels, and muskrats. They are smaller than otters.  Their tail is around 12.7 to 20.3 cm long, which is dark brown and black at the tip.  They have yellow green eyes when a light is shined in their eyes (eyeshine).  Mink do not have very good eye sight under water so hunting takes place above the water.  They are nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), but they have been seen during the day.  They have an anal scent gland that emit a strong musky odor that some people say is worse than a skunk! 

Natural History:  Mating takes place between late January and mid March.  Females can breed their first year of life, and their life span can be 1 year to 4 years.  Gestation is 40-75 days.  They can have litters of 2-6 kits, born blind, naked, and helpless.  The baby kits eyes open somewhere around 21-30 days.  They make their den near tree roots.  During mating, they sometimes hiss, scream or chuckle and mating can be very aggressive!

Distribution:  The American Mink can be found throughout Kansas, eastern U.S., and Alaska.  They are semi-aquatic and can be found along streams, river banks, lake shores, swamps, forest edges and they are never far from water. Mink were taken to Europe in the early 20th century for farming.

Green Area indicates American Mink range.  Photo from:

Diet:  Their diet is seasonal and they are carnivores hardly ever eating any type of vegetation.  In the spring and summer months they eat frogs, snakes, fish, aquatic birds and 50% of their diet is crayfish and muskrats!  In the winter, they eat mice, rabbits, squirrels and always kill more than they can eat and save it for later!

Conservation Status:  Not threatened

Etymology:  In Scandinavia, it’s known as “skin or fur of the mink” or a Swedish menk “stinking animal from Finland”. 

American mink looking for breakfast



Kansas Atlas Mammal

Great Plains Nature Center

Wildlife Response



Reid, Fiona A. 2006.  Peterson Field Guides Mammals of North America.  Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY.

Nowak, Ronald M. 1991.Mammals of the World Fifth Edition Volume II. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Brock-Clutton, Juliet and Don E. Wilson. 2002. Smithsonian Handbooks "Mammal". HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY.


Submitted by:  Tammey Shimon, July 2013



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