The term “mink” refers to two living species of mammal; the European mink (Muestela lutreola) and the American mink (Neovision vision). Although both species appear quite similar to one another, they do not share a common genus. European Mink are more closely related to polecats than they are to American mink, which are larger and stouter animals than those in the Mustela genus.
American mink are native to almost the entire northern half of North America with the exception of extremely arid regions. European mink are much rarer and now only exist in a few small pockets of northern Europe. The sharp decline of the European mink can be traced to the popularity of the American mink’s fur. In the late nineteenth century the consumer demand for mink pelts was greater than what trappers could provide, leading many to breed and farm mink for fur; these fur farms eventually made their way to Europe. American mink that managed to escape or be set free from fur farms quickly began to dominate the smaller native European mink, leading to a large nonnative European population.
Both species of mink are carnivores and make their homes near bodies of water. Wild mink are usually less than three feet long including tail and weigh about 2lbs, with farm-bred varieties being much heavier. The American mink in particular has a very soft, dense coat that is water-resistant and well-adapted to its semi aquatic environment. The body of a wild mink is quite slender, allowing the animal to easily access the burrows of prey animals.
Mink feed on rodents, fish, crustaceans, amphibians and birds. They are very capable swimmers and are able to catch prey in water, on land and underground. Mink do have to be wary of natural predators such as owls, foxes, bobcats and coyotes. However, the vast majority of mink are killed by human activities such as hunting to protect fish populations, trapping for fur and automobile strikes.
Mink live near bodies of water and prefer to have woods nearby. Their homes may be under a log or stump, a hollow tree or in an abandoned muskrat burrow. They are primarily nocturnal animals and live solitary lives outside of the mating season, never forming pair-bonds. Mating occurs in the spring with litters of four kits born between April and June. The kits are weaned after five weeks and stay with their mother until becoming independent in the autumn. Mink can live as long as 10 years.
Like skunks, mink can protect themselves by spraying a foul-smelling liquid. Unlike skunks, mink are unable to aim their spray
Mink can dive as deep as 16 feet.
Missouri Department of Conservation