||The Mammals of Texas -
Carnivora : Family Mustelidae :
Mustela vison Schreber
Description. A weasel-like carnivore
about the size of a house cat and semiaquatic in habit;
general color dark chocolate brown, darkest on back, and
nearly black on feet and end of tail; underparts paler
than back, with considerable white on midline from chin
to vent; neck long, head hardly larger around than neck;
tail long and moderately bushy; eyes and ears small; legs
short; pelage soft and dense, overlaid with longer,
blackish guard hairs. Dental formula as in the weasel. External measurements of an adult male: total
length, 560 mm; tail, 190 mm; hind foot, 67 mm; of a
female, 540-180-60 mm. Weight (males), 680-1,300 g;
(females), 450-700 g.
Distribution in Texas. Known from eastern
one-half of state westward to northern Panhandle in
habitats near permanent water.
Habits. Mink are closely
associated with the waterways and lakes of North America,
but the smaller streams are preferred to the large, broad
rivers. Along the coast they frequent the brackish
marshes and, on occasion, the littoral area adjacent to
the ocean. They are most common along streams partly
choked by windfalls and other debris which create
numerous water holes and at the same time offer
concealment for the mink. Lake and marsh-dwelling mink
are usually larger than those that live along streams.
Mink are active throughout the year.
They are tireless wanderers and may travel several
kilometers in their search for food.
The den is usually a retreat under the
roots of a tree near the water, in a hole in the bank of
a stream, in a pile of debris choking a stream, or in the
houses of muskrats, which they kill or otherwise evict
from their dens.
Their food consists of a wide variety
of animals which they usually capture and kill. The fact
that they are attracted to traps by carcasses of birds
and other animals suggests that they also feed on
carrion. Fish, frogs, clams, freshwater mussels, snakes,
rats and mice, ground squirrels, muskrats, and birds
constitute their main diet.
Mink are polygamous. The mating season
is in January, February, and March and the four to eight
young are born after a gestation period of from 39 to 76
days. At birth the young are blind, helpless, and covered
with a coat of fine, short, silvery-white hair. They
weigh about 6 g. When they are about 2 weeks old, the
whitish hair is replaced by a dull, fluffy, reddish brown
coat which, late in the year, is replaced by the adult
pelage. Their eyes open at about 37 days of age and they
leave the nest for the first time when about 7 weeks old.
They are weaned when 8 or 9 weeks of age, at which time
they weigh about 350 g. When about 5 months old, they are
as large as adults.
The mink is one of the principal
fur-bearing animals in the eastern United States and is
one of the few animals that can be reared economically on
fur farms. This is not the case in Texas, however, where
mink ranked only thirteenth in numbers of individuals
harvested and ninth in economic value to trappers during
the 1988-89 trapping season, as determined in a survey
conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Photo credit: Donald F. Hoffmeister, courtesy of
Museum of Natural History, University of Illinois.