Females weigh half that and are about 18 inches long. Its feet are fully furred, with toes webbed near the base. Unlike weasels, mink do not change color with the seasons, remaining dark brown, with a white patch on the chin and parts of the throat, year round.
The soft fur, with its dense underlayer and glistening guard hairs, has long been valued for coats, stoles, and jacket trim. Habitat Mink love water. They live in wetlands and along the shores of lakes, rivers, and streams. They hunt in shallows and den in abandoned muskrat dens along banks, beneath piles of brush or driftwood, and in hollow logs.
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Food and Hunting Mink are strictly meat eaters that hunt alone and mainly at night. A mink has a home range of roughly three square miles, though biologists have tracked some radio-collared individuals as far as seven miles in a single night. Strong swimmers, mink cruise below the water surface hunting fish, frogs, and crayfish.
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Mink also hunt muskrats, mice, and voles. The small predator will eat the eggs and kill ducklings and even an adult hen on its nest. In the Outer Hebrides, a cage-trapping campaign has already eliminated them from North Uist.
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Fisheries and Land Resources
Field sign fact sheet click to download. It has small and variable white patches on the chin, throat, chest and groin, which are more evident on a carcass. The American mink also has a short fluffy tail. It is of similar size to ferret or polecat and is much smaller than an otter. Males will have larger ranges than the females which are usually linear in layout along the banks of a river or canal stretching up to 6km in length.
Coastal dwelling minks have been known to travel up to 2km inland in search of food sources. Minks breed once each year with the mating season running from February to April, as American minks are solitary mammals a female can mate with any male which comes into her territorial range during this time, after mating the male will not guard the female and will either return to his own territory or seek out another female to mate with. Unusually for mammals ovulation will occur after mating has taken place.
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The feotus can be fully formed in the womb after only one month but females can delay birth for another six weeks until environmental factors such as calmer weather and an increased food supply are available which will give her young a greater chance of survival. Births usually occur during the months of April and May, newborn minks are known as kits with each litter comprising of between three and seven young.
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Kits are born blind, deaf and furless weighing only 5 grams. After one month they will have developed a dark grey fur coat and will have opened their eyes. Weaning generally lasts for eight weeks after which time the young kits are fully developed. Parental care is given by the females only who will bring her young food each day to the den, she will remove her kits to another den if disturbed.
Mothers will teach her offspring hunting techniques allowing them to become fully independent by fourteen weeks of age, after which they will disperse from the den to find territories of their own.
By the following spring they will have reached sexual maturity. Mortality rates for young American minks in Ireland is high especially in winter and spring as failure to establish a suitable territory which can be successfully defended from other minks will result in starvation for the individual. On fur farms American minks have been known to live for up to 10 years but lifespans in the wild are usually only half that length.
Originally native to woodland areas of North America and Canada the American mink was brought to Europe for the purpose of fur farming in the early s. The first known escape from a fur farm in Ireland occurred in county Tyrone in , since then deliberately released and escaping minks have allowed the species to spread throughout the country. American minks are now established in most areas from the coast, throughout the midlands and to upland regions due to their highly adaptive nature and lack of natural predators.
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The feral Irish population spread rapidly as they had no native species that were in direct competition with them for habitats. The introduction of the American mink species to Ireland although accidental has added to our mammalian species diversity whilst not affecting any resident species too greatly. In other European countries which had established populations of European minks the spread of the more successful American mink has directly led to that species decline.
In Ireland the effects on prey species can be damaging when minks come into contact with animals which are being captively reared such as farmed salmon, game birds and poultry.
Wild populations of ground nesting birds and waterfowl will suffer increased losses if the American mink continues to spread. Smaller mammals such as bank voles and pygmy shrews may also be affected if the American mink numbers continue to increase. The Irish otter is the native species which is most directly in competition with the mink both for prey items and habitat preference, their effects on the Irish otter are not yet fully known.