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  • The American mink is at home both on land and in water—it often makes its burrow along streambanks.

  • The American mink’s slender form enables it to easily pursue small mammal prey in tight quarters.

  • The mink is solitary except for family groups and adult pairs that may share a den during the breeding season.

  • Luxuriously soft, thick, water-repelling fur keeps the American mink warm on land and in water.

  • Partially webbed toes help the American mink swim with ease when hunting for its aquatic prey.

  • Among the American mink’s aquatic prey are crayfish, small frogs, fish, and small waterfowl.

The American mink is a fascinating animal with a vast range that encompasses most of North America, except for Arizona, along the Arctic coast, and on some offshore islands. Moving with ease between land and water, the American mink usually chooses to live in woodsy areas near streams, ponds, or lakes, creating its burrow in the banks of a river, stream, or lake, or sometimes appropriating an abandoned den of a muskrat. Their ideal habitat also includes brushy cover or rocky crevices.

Roughly half of the mink’s length is its tail. Its lanky body has short legs, and due to its semi-aquatic ways, its toes are partially webbed. Males are both heavier and longer than females, by about 20 percent, with the smallest male being roughly the size of the largest female: about 2.5 pounds and 23 inches. Their slender form enables them to maneuver with speed and agility both when pursuing prey and escaping predators.

Threats to their safety and well-being

The American mink has been -- and continues to be -- exploited for its exceptionally beautiful and soft fur. Most states and all Canadian provinces continue to have trapping seasons. Habitat loss is another significant threat to the American mink, as it depends on aquatic areas, which are often developed or altered in other damaging ways. Improper disposal of chemicals also takes a toll on the mink’s reproduction and health. Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust wildlife sanctuaries, such as the Kullberg Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary in Swanzey, New Hampshire, and the Orenda-Winham Wildllife Sanctuary and Stickey Wicket Wildlife Sanctuary, both in Marlow, New Hampshire, offer the American mink healthy habitat where it is protected against the commercial and recreational trapping that threaten its safety elsewhere.

How they spend their time

After mating in winter and a gestation period that varies widely in length (40 to 75 days), female American minks give birth to litters in April or May. The litters may be as few as one or as many as eight, with each newborn weighing less than half an ounce. Though the young are weaned at six weeks, they may not be independent until ten weeks. Staying with their mother until fall enables the young to learn a great deal about staying safe and successfully catching prey. Once they are ready to leave, they must seek and establish their own territories, as the American mink is a basically solitary and territorial animal. Nonetheless, the American mink does communicate, using any of its auditory, visual, or chemical signals to announce reproductive and territorial messages.

American mink are known to be fierce predators, and they boldly defend themselves against such formidable predators as coyotes, bobcats, and birds of prey. Among their ways of avoiding predation are their secretive nature, coloring that confuses the eye, agility when trying to escape, and confining most activity between dusk and dawn, when their coloring makes them even less visible. The prey they seek for themselves includes crayfish, small frogs, small mammals, fish, ducks, and other waterfowl.

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