Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

American Mink

Neovison vison


This species has a long slender body (about 2 feet long) with short legs and a pointy fat face. Their long tail is about half the length of the body. The mink is a semi-aquatic creature and they have partially webbed toes to help them swim. The American mink has thick, soft, dark brown fur with white patches on the chin, chest and throat (but the amount of white can vary or even absent). The fur has oily guard hairs that act as waterproofing. Females are typically smaller than males


The American mink can be found throughout the United States (but not in Arizona), Canada, and some parts of Newfoundland. They can also be found in the British Isles. They prefer forested areas near water. Males mark their territories using secretions from enlarged anal glands. They dig their burrows in the banks of rivers, lakes and streams, sometimes taking over old dens of muskrats.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

The diet of American minks varies with season. Summer diets consist of crayfish and small frogs, shrews, rabbits, mice, and muskrats (occasionally consuming water fowl and fish). They are skilled swimmers and climbers, swimming 100 feet underwater and diving 5 meters to find food. Winter diets mostly consist of small mammals.


Sexual maturity is reached at ten months old. Mating occurs in the winter where the female will mate with one or more males, the males also mate with more than one female. 40-75 days after mating, a litter of 1-8 young are born in April or May. The eyes of the young are open at 3.5 weeks and are weaned at a month and a half. The young will stay with their mother until fall. American mink typically live 10 years.

Months and Times of Activity

The American mink is a solitary species and are most active at night.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

  • The population in the British Isles was introduced by accident when the escaped from fur farms in 1960’s, where they have seriously altered the food web due to their predacious nature.
  • Mink pelts have been considered one of the most luxurious furs for years. Populations plummeted from the fur demand, then mink ranches were established to create a supply of the pelts. During the 1960’s there were as many as 7200 mink ranches in the United States.
  • To read a legend featuring the American mink go to:
  • Children’s book featuring an American mink: A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun?  By Brian P. Cleary


 Schlimme, K. 2003. "Neovison vison" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 03, 2014 at