The mink we have in Britain are not native here. They are American mink (Neovison vison), which originated from mink brought here for fur-farming.
In continental Europe, there is also a European mink (Mustela lutreola), a somewhat different species and now endangered. The European mink has apparently never existed in the British Isles.
A widespread modern misconception is that the UK’s wild population of American mink originated from mass releases of mink from fur farms by animal rights activists in the 1990s. Many people will remember these dramatic events for the sheer numbers of mink involved. In fact, the wild population was established decades earlier from multiple escapes (and perhaps deliberate releases) all over the country.
Mink are relatively small predators weighing in at 2 to 3.5 pounds with an overall length of 20-30 inches. These elongated semi-aquatic animals are very sleek and sit low to the ground with short legs. The appearance of the mink would be best described as a mix between an otter and weasel. Mink are very handsome specimens with a rich, dark chocolate brown coat and an extremely muscular physique. They are highly valued for their fur because of its luxurious appearance, stunning durability, and exceptional insulating qualities. The mink’s protective fur coupled with its unmatched aggression has allowed it to thrive in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.
Mink are strictly carnivorous, preying on a wide variety wildlife. Mink love the water and much of their prey can be found in and around water. The mink’s diet includes fish, shellfish, crayfish, frogs, snakes, lizards, large insects, small rodents, rabbits, rats,muskrat, nutria, waterfowl, upland birds and eggs. Mink will also feed on carrion but prefer fresh kills. Mink will prey on animals mach larger than themselves, latching on to anything they can get their jaws locked on to; geese and swans are occasional victims.
Mink are travel and hunt in familiar circuits 3-7 miles long. These circuits hug water systems and natural drainage basins., especially lake chains and canal networks, such as those found in Pinckney, Hell, Hamburg, Ann Arbor, Milford and South Lyon. Mink don’t have permanent dens; the only time they den up for more than a day or two is when they raise there young in the spring and early summer. Most of the year mink are on the move, spending up to half of their time in the water probing every little hole in the bank in search of prey. Mink hunt day and the night, usually resting only after they have made a kill. Mink will often spend time in the dens of their prey; muskrat dens are a common location for mink to hold out for a day or two while they feed on the carcass of the den’s last tenant. While mink can be seen crossing expanses of land far from water, bank holes in creeks and rivers are the mink’s favorite hideouts.
Mink have few predators because of there fierce, aggressive style of defense. Wolf and coyote will attempt to make a meal out of the mink, but often give up after a few nasty bites to the face. Surprisingly, the most successful predator of the mink is the great horned owl. Targeting juvenile and small female mink, the owl descends from darkness in complete silence and sinks its talons into the victim before it knows it’s being attacked. The owl does not always come out on top, however; the mink’s powerful jaws can still deliver a crushing bite that drives off the owl half the time.