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  • Stories

    Native Animal of the Month - The Mink

    Written by Jennifer Callaghan
      Thursday, December 13 2012
    Native Animal of the Month - The Mink

    The Mink (Mustela vison) is a beautiful native Wisconsin animal with lusterous, thick fur. It often has prominent white spots underneath its chin giving it the look of a milk mustache. This round-eared, tubular-shaped mammal has partially webbed toes suitable to its semi-aquatic lifestyle. It is larger than most members of Mustela, similar in size to a marten. Unlike other mustelids however, it does not turn white in the winter. It retains its magnificent dark coat throughout the year and is often easily spotted along streams and ponds in the winter against the stark white backdrop of snowcover.


    The mink can be found living along rivers, lakes, wetlands and forests in the entire state of Wisconsin. They are mMink standing in snow.ore aquatic than most other weasels and often dig their burrows with an entrance on the water's edge. Mink are excellent swimmers and will travel underwater up to 100 feet in distance and 15 feet deep in search of food. These fearless carnivores have voracious appetites and eat a diet composed of small to medium mammals, fish, crayfish, and water fowl such as ducks. In the winter they eat mostly muskrat, sometimes even attacking while the muskrat is swimming.

    Females mate in the winter and give birth in the early spring to 4-9 kits. The young are fully weaned by 7 weeks, self-sufficient by 8 weeks and sexually mature by 10 months. Young are occasionally killed by coyotes, great horned owls, and other large carnivores. However, the only real threat to mink are humans that hunt mink for their prized pelts.

    Fun Facts

    • Mink have a lifespan of 5-10 years.
    • Like many other weasels, the mink releases an incredibly foul-smelling musk when threatened and marks its territory with a pungent excretion.
    • A male mink's territory can be up to 40 acres in size. The female's is about half the size and often overlaps males.
    • Mink TrackThe mink waterproofs its fur with an oily substance which provides excellent insulation in near freezing waters.
    • This common weasel is also commonly called the American Mink.
    • Mink are susceptible to bioaccumulation of mercury and other heavy metals and toxins. This poses a dangerous threat to the survival and reproduction of some mink.
    • Mink are invasive in parts of Europe where they were introduced by mink farmers.

    *Information cited in this article was gathered with the help of The Mammals of the Great Lakes Region by Allen Kurta and Mammals of Wisconsin by Stan Tekiela.

    Jennifer Callaghan

    Jennifer Callaghan

    Jennifer came to Wisconsin later in life, but has fully embraced the great state of Wisconsin as home.  Her first career was as a professional ballet dancer, but a lifelong passion for nature and animals led her to a second career in environmental biology.  She loves to learn new things and share her love of nature with others.  In her free time she likes to travel and be active with her awesome husband and dog.

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