American mink are a member of the mustelid family whose other members include weasel, otter and badger. They all have a musk gland which they use to secrete a pungent oil to mark their territories. Mink are ferret sized, twice the size of a stoat and half the size of an otter. Male mink measure approximately 60 cm in length, including the tail and weigh between 1 – 2 kg. Females are smaller at approximately 45 cm, including the tail and weigh between 0.5-0.8 kg. They are most commonly known to have dark brown/black fur with a little white chin patch, however their colours can vary. This is because when they were farmed for their fur more unusual colours were more valuable, e.g. blue-grey, silver and albino.


Mink are semi-aquatic animals and the best places to see them are in wetland environments such as streams and rivers, lakes, broads, marshes and sea coasts where they find much of their prey, though they may also be frequent in more open situations. Mink are territorial; an average mink territory size along a linear waterway may be up to 5km for a male and 1km to 3km for a female. Mink are excellent swimmers and divers and can stay under water for some time.

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American mink are carnivores and eat a wide range of prey including birds, rabbits, fish, and game, as well as water voles. Because of their wide range of prey they can thrive in many different habitats eating whatever food is available in that area, this can include domestic fowl. They are an opportunistic, generalist predator able to adapt their feeding behaviour according to prey availability and once they have reduced one food source they simply move onto another.

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Mink diet in 1st year of colonisation, River Soar, Leics. Researched by © Chris Strachan

Mink Calendar

Mink will breed during the spring (February to April) with males travelling vast distances in search of a mate, they will try to mate with any female mink they find and then move on in search of another. A female mink will look for a den site once she has mated to raise her young; den sites are usually cavities in tree roots at the water’s edge, rabbit burrows or in a pile of rocks. However they will make a den practically anywhere, e.g. under/in sheds, windmills, reed/sedge