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American Mink
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General Description

By Gustave J. Yaki

The American Mink is an amphibious member of the Weasel Family closely related to the three above species. It is wildly distributed in North America, absent only from the tundra and the southwestern U.S.A. It has a counterpart in the Old World, the Eurasian Mink, but is considered distinct from it.

Like the other weasels, it has a similar lithe body, but appears somewhat stockier. The average male measures 535 mm (21 in) in total length, with a long, moderately-bushy tail 174 mm (7 in) long. The average weight is 2.07 kg (4.7 lb). Males are considerably larger than females which average only 0.89 kg (2 lb). The overall body colour of the guard hairs is dark brown to almost black. The underside is usually lighter and often there are white areas on the lip and/or chest or belly. The soft, lustrous, thick greyish-brown under-fur keeps the animal warm and dry when in water. It is that fur that makes the mink the valuable fur-bearer that it is.

Unlike the above members of the Weasel Family, Mink spend most of their time loping along shorelines of lakes, streams, tidal flats and large swamps. Primarily nocturnal, mink are active all year. As expected, they are excellent swimmers. In winter, when water surfaces freeze, water levels usually drop. The resultant thin layer of air under the ice allow mink to travel widely, totally unmolested. When exposed, they are subject to predation by Wolves, Coyotes, Red Foxes, Bobcats, Lynx, Black Bears and Great Horned Owls.

As would be expected, aquatic organisms or those near shorelines provides most of the mink's food needs. Small mammals constitute the major element. Representative species are: Muskrat, up to 36% in one study; Meadow Voles, 12%; shrews, 5%; and cottontails, 3%. Fish form about one-third of their usual diet. Favourite species are: shiners, 12%; trout, 2.5%; and sunfish, 2%; plus some minnows and dace. Frogs, 19%; salamanders, 3%; and crayfish, 14%, are other important items, when they are present. Insects, 7%; birds, 3%; and earthworms, 2.5% are lesser components of their energy requirement. Although mink kill snakes, they don't seem to be a dietary item.

Mink usually inhabits dens or burrows under the roots of trees along banks, or shelters made by Beavers or Muskrat. They may also use hollow logs or stumps in the forest. Males, which travel widely, covering up to 8 sq. km (3 sq mi) of territory, make use of many sites; females, which are more sedentary, occupying only 10 to 20 hectares (25 to 50 acres), use only one or two.

The mating season is from February to April. Males are promiscuous. After a brief period of development, the embryo enters a restive stage. The later the date of mating, the shorter the time of implantation, so gestation varies from 39-76 days. The young are usually born in late April or early May.

Two to ten young (average five) constitute the litter. The kits are born blind and deaf, and are pink and wrinkled. They have a light covering of fine white hairs. Shortly after their eyes open (35 days), they are weaned, and soon following their mother on hunting excursions, They are able to fend for themselves at two months of age. They disperse in the early autumn. Females reach sexual maturity at 12 months; males at eighteen months.

Calgary sightings: Mink are regularly seen along the Elbow and Bow Rivers. One was reported by an eight-year old girl and her mother along the Elbow River in the Weaselhead Natural Area on 20 Nov. 2004.

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Where to find American Minks in Alberta   

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American Mink Behaviour   

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Interesting Facts about American Minks   

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American Mink Stories from our Readers   

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American Mink Sounds

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Recent American Mink Reports in Alberta

No. Location Reporter Date
3 Weaselhead/Glenmore Pk Heppner 2011/10/30
1 Fish Creek Pk Liadon 2011/09/26
1 Fish Creek Pk MILLER 2011/07/02
1 Edworthy Pk Vink 2011/06/10
1 Bow River Gregg 2011/04/05

American Mink Hotspots in Alberta

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