What does a Mink Look Like?
Wild Mink: Wild American mink weigh about 6 gms when born, and are weaned at eight to 10 weeks old, weighing about 350 gms.
By the time it reaches adulthood, a male is about the size of a small house cat, weighing 680 – 1,300 gm, and measuring about 56 cm in length. The smaller female weighs 450 – 700 gm, and measures about 54 cm in length. The tail accounts for about a third of a mink’s total body length. Lake and marsh-dwelling mink are usually larger than those that live along streams.
Domesticated Mink: Domesticated mink are bred in part for their size, and are normally much larger than their wild cousins. This is partly the result of management and diet, but the main reason for the size of domesticated mink is genetics. To have large mink, you must select for large mink.
At birth, kits weigh about 10 gms and are weaned onto solid food after 24-28 days, weighing about 200 gms. They can more than double their size in the first few days of life, attesting to the nutritious quality of mink milk, and underlining the importance of good nutrition and health for lactating females.
The average weight of a domesticated adult varies by color and sex. Females of all colors range from 1,000 to 2,000 gm, and average about 1,400 gm. Males range from 2,000 to 4,000 gm, and average 2,600 to 2,700 gm.
Fur: A mink’s fur is silky soft and glossy, with the American mink having fuller and thicker fur than its European cousin.
In the wild, mink vary in color from chocolate brown to almost black above, with pale fur underneath. As a general rule, the fur of northern subspecies tends to be darker than that of southern forms. Buff to white patches are common on the midline from the chin to the vent, but these vary in size and shape from one population to the next.
Domesticated mink are selectively bred especially for their fur, resulting in a range of colors from almost black to white, including many shades not found in the wild. For more information about the many colors available for domesticated mink, see True Colors!
A mink’s coat helps keep it dry and also provides insulation against low temperatures. This is achieved by means of two components: guard hairs and underfur hairs.
The guard hairs are long, lustrous outer hairs whose main function is to keep the mink dry. (Marsh animals such as beaver and nutria have especially long and shiny guard hairs.) The guard hairs in a mink are thicker and longer along the center of the back, accounting for a “stripe” effect.
Each guard hair is surrounded by between nine and 24 underfur hairs which range in length from one-third to half the length of the guard hair. The function of the underfur is to retain heat, and the colder the climate a mink inhabits, the denser and woolier its underfur will be. Often the underfur is a different color from the guard hair, usually lighter.
Mink molt twice a year. The thick, dark winter coat is shed in April, to be replaced by a much flatter and browner summer coat. Come August or September, the mink molts again, and by late November its winter coat is in its prime.
Mouth: Mink have 34 teeth, with 4 prominent canine teeth to help in the killing of prey species.
They have the same dental formula as the weasel: I 3/3, C 1/1, Pm 3/3, M 1/2 X 2 = 34.
Tail: The tail of the mink is moderately bushy and accounts for about a third of its body length, or 5 to 9 inches.
Even though a mink is semi-aquatic, it does not have a specialized tail for swimming as do other semi-aquatic mammals such as beaver, muskrats and otters.
Ears: A mink’s ears are round and small, but not as small as they appear. They are actually about an inch long, but are close-set to the head.
Nose: A mink has a short, pointed nose. It relies heavily upon sense of smell when foraging for terrestrial prey.
Eyes: A mink has small eyes, and its eyesight is only fair, so it tends to rely primarily on its sense of smell when hunting.
Its eyes are also not particularly well adapted to underwater vision, and so when fishing it will often locate its prey from above before diving in pursuit.
Paws: A mink’s legs are short. The soles of the paws are hairy, but the pads are naked. There are five toes on each paw.
A mink’s paw is partially webbed, but not as webbed as those of some other semi-aquatic mammals such as beaver, muskrats and otters. This makes mink both good climbers and swimmers, though not outstanding at either.
Scent: Mink have highly developed anal scent glands, typical of members of the weasel family.
Mink are generally solitary animals, with males being particularly intolerant of one another. They mark the boundaries of their territory using musky secretions from these anal glands.
Mink can also spray with these glands as an act of aggression or self-defense, in the same way as skunks, although the spraying range is far less, and the scent is less repulsive, dissipates faster, and does not penetrate clothing to anything like the same degree.
Because mink on fur farms are bred for docility and are used to being handled by humans, spraying is rare. When it does occur, it is usually during vaccination or some other medical procedure.