Belette (French), mink
Poorly known. This semi-aquatic species occurs statewide, usually near permanent water. Status of populations unknown. Low Conservation Concern.
Mink have elongated, slender bodies with short sturdy legs. Weight of individual animals can vary from 1 ½ pounds to 3 ½ pounds, with 2 pounds being the average. As do other mustelids (mammals that belong to the weasel family) mink exhibit considerable differences in weight according to their sex. Males weigh one and one-half times more than females on average.
The general coloration of the fur is uniformly dark brown but can vary from dark brown to almost black. They usually have a white spot beneath the chin. Their pelt is soft and lustrous with thick grayish brown underfur and long glossy guard hairs.
Common over most of Canada and the United States; they range from northern Alaska, throughout the Canadian Provinces down into all of the United States, except for parts of the southwest. They are common residents in many parts of Alabama, ranging throughout every river system in the state and common along the delta region of south Alabama.
Semi-aquatic in nature; minks are seldom found far from a water source. They occupy a variety of wetland habitats, including streams, rivers, lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes, and coastlines. Swamps and beaver ponds are also locations where you can find this furbearer. Primarily nocturnal, mink can sometimes be observed running along stream banks in secluded areas of Alabama in the late evening or early morning.
Generalist in feeding habits, their food preferences vary according to the season of the year. During the summer, the bulk of their diet is fish, crayfish, frogs and small mammals. In the winter, it is primarily mammals and fish that are on the menu. Also during the winter months, waterfowl tend to be more prevalent in their diet. Similar to their cousin, the long-tailed weasel, mink will “cache” or store prey items to be used at a later date.
The method of killing prey is unique to the weasel family. Mink kill in one of two ways: killing their victims by crushing the vertebrae at the base of the neck or by puncturing the skull of the victim with their powerful canine teeth.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY:
In Alabama, mink generally breed in late January and early February. The timing of the breeding season is influenced by the increasing amount of photoperiod (daylight). As is true of all mustelids, implantation of the ova may be delayed.
During the breeding process, males may become very aggressive. Bites and scarring on females are common. Following implantation of the eggs, pregnancy may last from 40 to 79 days (averages 51 days). A litter ranges from three to six young. The kits are naked at birth, blind and pink in color. Their eyes open when they are 25 days old and they are weaned at five to six weeks of age. By the time the young are 8 weeks old, they are capable of capturing some of their own food.
Generally speaking, family groups (mother and young) will stay together until autumn, at which time the young will strike out on their own. Denning sites are always located near water. Locations such as rock crevices, under tree root systems, under old bridges, and even old muskrat or beaver lodges may be utilized as denning sites.
Chapman, J.A. and G.A. Feldhamer. 1982. Wild Mammals of North America. The John Hopkins University Press. pp. 1147.
Linscombe, G. 1980. The Fur Animals, the Alligator, and the Fur Industry in Louisiana. Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries. pp. 69.
Sievering, M. E., 1989. Furbearers of Alabama. Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Special Report No. 11. pp. 78.
Novak, M., J.A. Baker, M. E. Okford and B. Mallock. 1987. Wild Furbearer Management and Conservation in North America. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. pp. 1150.