The mink is the most common water mammal predator (meat eater) in Minnesota. It can be found in nearly every wetland, lake, and creek in the state, including those in cities and towns. The mink is a versatile predator. Lithe and agile, it pursues its prey on land and in water. It can swim and dive with ease and remain underwater for many minutes.
General description: A small, brown predator with small rounded ears, a white or yellow bib on its chest, and whitish belly. The legs of a mink are short, but its body is long. Its fur is highly prized for coats and jackets. Its pelt is soft, thick, and silky, mixed with long, glossy, guard hairs.
Length: Adults are 14 to 20 inches long, including a 5- to 9-inch tail.
Weight: Adults weigh 2 to 4 pounds.
Color: Light to dark brown, with a white- to cream-colored underside.
Mink nest in hollow logs or stumps near water, or in bank dens dug by muskrats. Litters, averaging five or six young, are usually born in late spring, six weeks after mating. Mink weigh about one-fifth of an ounce at birth but, by maturity, are one to four pounds.
Mink eat just about any type of animal that lives in and near water, including fish, frogs, ducks, crayfish, eggs, lizards, grubs, earthworms, mice, and muskrats.
Except for otters, mink have few natural predators. However, they often die from parasites and diseases.
Mink are found throughout Minnesota, though lakeshore and riverfront developments have reduced their populations. Wherever there is water, there are likely wild mink. However, some chemically polluted waters containing mercury or PCBs somehow sterilize mink so that they cannot reproduce. They are nocturnal and rarely seen. In winter, however, their tracks are often encountered on frozen marshes where mink travel from one muskrat house to another while hunting.
Wild mink have been one of the most valued furbearers for two centuries, and thousands are trapped throughout Minnesota each autumn by licensed trappers. The mink population remains healthy.
Look for mink tracks along stream banks, especially where there are small holes in the banks. Mink often leave their droppings on rocks and logs at the stream edge, and sometimes even on boat and fishing docks.