Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nature Guide: Mink

Yesterday's visit to the D&R Canal towpath turned up an assortment of turtles, cormorants, mallards, mockingbirds, sparrows, grackles, red-winged blackbirds and, of course, geese. It was toward the end of our walk that Nature Guide and I noticed a dark weasel-like animal quickly making its way through the broken shrubs and fallen tree limbs along the shore of Lake Carnegie. It had a shiny brown body and a furry black tail. I was able to shoot one photo, then the animal was gone. We had seen a mink! Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us more.

"It is unusual to see an American Mink, Neovison vison, in daylight. They are nocturnal and solitary, often spending the day in their underground den. Minks usually live near water, where they catch much of their food. They are found throughout most of North America, except for the drier areas of the Southwest.

Photo: Terry L Spivey, Terry Spivey Photography,

"Minks are aggressive predators, hunting muskrats, shrews, earthworms and insects on land. They are also excellent swimmers, moving through water by undulating their body rather than paddling. They often dive to catch fishes, frogs or salamanders. They are even known to climb trees and hunt birds.

"Minks are valued by humans for their thick and shiny fur. They were once hunted to near extinction in some places. Today most of the mink used in the fur trade is raised on farms. In the wild, a mink's fur is usually a rich brown, but mink farmers have produced various color varieties, such as "blue" or lighter browns, through extensive cross-breeding programs."