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What is a mink?

Following the release of thousands of minks from a fur farm in Northumberland County, many want to know more about them.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — What is a mink?

That's the question on the minds of many after thousands of them were released from a Pennsylvania fur farm.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, minks are one of Pennsylvania's most skilled hunters.

Minks are semi-aquatic mammals and are members of the weasel family, which includes weasels, martens, fishers, wolverines, badgers, skunks and otters.

Where do minks live?

Mink can be found in both Europe and North America. 

They live along the edges of lakes, streams, and rivers.

Minks will live in abandoned woodchuck tunnels, hollow logs, vacant muskrat lodges, and similar concealed spaces near water. 

These dens often have multiple entrances.

What do they look like?

Adult male minks can reach around two feet in length, including their 8-inch tail, and weigh between 1½ to two pounds. Females are slightly smaller and weigh up to a half-pound lighter.

They have short legs, a long and bushy tail, a slender neck and body, a short head, and a pointed muzzle. 

Minks have a thick, soft coat with a short, dense layer of underfur covered with longer hairs giving their fur a sheen. 

Their coat colors vary, and unlike some weasels, minks do not change colors during winter.

Hunting Techniques

Minks have excellent hearing and eyesight, along with a keen sense of smell. 

They primarily rely on their sharp vision when foraging.

Minks can hear ultrasonic vocalizations emitted by their rodent prey, providing them with a distinct advantage when hunting.

They are equally at home in the water as they are on land.  They can swim and dive with ease thanks to webbed hind feet.

Minks are most active during the night and early morning, although they occasionally venture out during the day.

What do they eat?

Minks are opportunistic predators, adaptable in their choice of prey depending on availability. 

Their primary food sources include mice, voles, and muskrats throughout the year. 

However, they also consume rabbits, shrews, fish, frogs, crayfish, insects, snakes, waterfowl, birds, eggs, domestic poultry, earthworms, and snails. 

 In winter, minks often store excess prey, revisiting them later to eat.

How long do they live?

In captivity, minks can live up to 10 years, but in the wild, they typically have a lifespan of only two to three winters due to various factors such as disease, road accidents, and regulated harvesting. 

The mink's natural predators include foxes, bobcats, and great-horned owls.

Information for this article is provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.


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