Creature Feature

Creature Feature – The American Mink

Posted by  //  September 11, 2018  //  Articles, Creature Feature

The mink is a small, slender mammal in the Mustelid family (weasels, otters, etc.).  There’s more to a mink than just its valuable, glossy-brown fur. Slightly webbed feet enable it to move freely between terrestrial and water environments, and it’s an excellent swimmer. It inhabits forested areas close to water and prefers shorelines with rocky, brushy cover.  The mink is often within 100 feet from the water. One Quebec researcher found the majority of mink activity within 10 feet of a stream.

Fish make up nearly half of its diet, but it will also eat crayfish, rodents, amphibians and birds.  Although diminutive in stature, the mink is innately fierce. It attacks and eats larger animals like rabbits and muskrats.  From my boat, I’ve observed minks as they run along the lakeshore, investigating crevices between rocks and logs for frogs and other prey.  They’ll slip silently into the water for a moment before scooting back up onto shore, forever on the go.

Recent studies show a strong link between declines in mink populations in areas where wetlands are found to be polluted.  Even small amounts of mercury and PCB’s can seriously impair its reproduction, and higher doses can be lethal. Pollutants, pesticides and heavy metals are known to cause biomagnification – toxins concentrate as they move up the food chain.  Being near the top of the chain, the mink is vulnerable to these concentrated toxins.  The mink, therefore, acts as a “canary in the coal mine,” warning of contaminated waterways and reminding us how our actions can directly impact natural resources, wildlife, and even our own well being.

Article & Photo by Margie Manthey

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