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The Story Of Wild Animals:
 Story Of The Ferret

 Story Of The Chipmunk

 Story Of The Cavy

 Story Of The Marten

 Story Of The Lemur

 Story Of The Echidna

 Story Of The Mink

 Story Of The Wapi

 Story Of The Wolverine

 Story Of The Skunk

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Story Of The Mink

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Among the fur-bearing animals that have been a source of profit to hunters and trappers is the mink, a very near relative of the polecat. The minks are divided into three families, the American, the Siberian and the European. The latter is generally known as the nertz or sumpf-otter (marsh-otter), and has no recognized European name, although some naturalists have agreed in calling it the European mink.

All of the minks are inclined to water, and their toes are partly webbed. The European and North American minks are such closely related animals that they cannot be even distinguished from one another externally. The European mink has, however, very generally a white upper lip, which is but rarely exhibited in its American relative. When the skulls of the two forms are compared together it will be found that in the American form the upper molar tooth is invariably decidedly larger than in the European; and it is on account of this difference that the two are regarded as specifically distinct from one another.

Like the martens, the minks have a uniformly long and somewhat bushy tail, differing markedly from that of the weasels; its whole length being approximately equal to half that of the head and body. The ears are smaller than in any of the allied forms, and scarcely appear above the general level of the fur. The coat consists of a dense, soft and matted under-fur; mixed with long, stiff and glossy hairs, the gloss being most marked in the fur of the upper-parts, while the hairs of the tail are more bristly than else-where. In color the mink varies from a light dull yellowish brown to a rich black chocolate-brown, the ordinary tint being a rich dark brown, scarcely, if at all, paler below than above. The tail is always decidedly blackish. Our illustration exhibits the white upper lip usually distinctive of the European mink. In both the eastern and western forms the chin is always white, although the extent of the white area is subject individual changes. In addition to the white on the chin, there may also be small irregular patches of the same color on the under parts, while, in rare instances, the tail may also be tipped with white.

As a rule, the American mink is somewhat larger than the European, and in both the male is always larger than the female. The American form may vary in length from the tip of the snout to the root of the tail from fifteen to eighteen inches, while the length of the tail, inclusive of the hair, ranges from about eight to nine inches. The European mink is an inhabitant of Eastern Europe, occurring at the present day in Poland, Finland, and the greater part of Russia, although unknown to the eastward of the Ural Mountains.

The American species ranges over the greater part of North America, although not found in the extreme north of that continent.

In its general habits the mink, in both hemispheres, is thoroughly amphibious, and is therefore only found in districts where water is abundant. Indeed, these animals may in this respect be regarded as presenting precisely the same relationship to the polecat as is held by the water-vole to the land-vole. The mink not only swims and dives with facility, but can remain long under water, and pursues and captures fish by following them under logs or other places from which there is no free escape. It has thus been known to catch as swift and agile a fish as the brook-trout, and Audubon says that he has seen a mink catch a trout of upwards of a foot in length. It is remarkably strong for so small an animal, and a single one has been known to drag a mallard duck more than a mile, in order to get to its hole, where its mate joined in the feast.

Generally, the food of the mink consists of various aquatic creatures, such as frogs, crayfish and molluscs, but it will also eat various small aquatic animals, such as voles, as well as mice and rats, while in America it is reported to prey at times upon the comparatively large musquash. Marsh-frequenting birds also fall victims to the mink; and their eggs are also consumed. Other wild birds are, however, comparatively safe from the attacks of this animal, as its climbing powers are of the feeblest. Poultry are not unfrequently attacked; but in these and other attacks the mink does not exhibit that wholesale destructiveness characteristic of the stoat. In hunting, the mink has been often observed to pursue its prey entirely by scent, and it may be observed on its hunting expeditions both by night and by day.

All who have hunted the mink bear witness to its extraordinary tenacity of life, the writer last quoted stating that he has known several instances of these animals being found alive after having lain for fully four-and-twenty hours with their bodies crushed flat beneath a heavy log. The countenance of the mink is described as at all times far from prepossessing, but when caught alive in a steel trap these animals have an expression almost diabolical.

Same years ago the fur of the mink was but little esteemed, and the price was at one time said to be so low as not to repay the cost of transport. Recently mink fur has, however, been more appreciated, and the animal has consequently been more vigorously trapped, with the result that in some districts there has been a considerable reduction in its numbers. In 1865 the value of a good mink skin was reported to have reached five dollars, and at that date upwards of six thousand of these skins were annually exported from Nova Scotia alone. It is stated that while for two decades the total number of European mink skins averaged fifty-five thousand, the exports of American mink reached one hundred and sixty thousand, but in the year 1888 the number of American was upwards of three hundred and seventy thousand. At the latter date the value of Russian mink varied from about one to four shillings per skin, while American skins fetched from four to ten shillings. Much higher prices were, however, current a few years previously.

American mink always obtains higher prices than Russian, the best skins coming from Alaska and New England.

The Siberian mink is a little-known species inhabiting the districts to the eastwards of the Yenesei River, but unknown in Siberia. It is more like a polecat in general appearance, having similar dark and light markings on the head and face. The color is a clear rich tawny brown, as dark below as above.

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