Nick showed me an interesting video the other afternoon at work. A friend of his was fishing along the banks of the Raccoon River. He had successfully hooked a fish and as he was lifting it from the water, another fisherman ran up and tried to steal his prize. He yelled, but it was like the thief was deaf. It was a mink.
Apparently it was a hungry mink as it paid no attention to the man at the other end of the fishing line. The video caught by his cell phone showed numerous attempts by the mink to capture the fish as the fisherman played it much like a donkey and a carrot on a string. Technology today allows most of us to readily have that camera wherever we go to capture these kinds of moments.
Our guess was that this small to medium sized mink was a female with a den of four or five hungry little ones not far away. Mink are mostly nocturnal , but I have had many opportunities over the years to watch mink feeding along a streambank. They are always so interesting to watch - darting in and around and under tree roots, grass clumps and brush piles.
If you ever observe a mink in the wild, the first thing you will notice is that it rarely stops moving. A good sized mink is a little longer than 2 feet from nose to tail, and weighs less than 3 pounds. Always on a mission, minks are bursting with energy. They seem to be actively hunting food and they seldom frolic and play like larger river otters. Like otters, mink are a rich brown color, but commonly have a white throat patch and always a bushy tail. Their feet are partially webbed. They have multiple sharp teeth that can make short work of a crunchy crayfish or bone-filled, scale-covered fish.
Minks don't only hunt in and around water, however. They also feed on rabbits, and mice, as well. And if you have a chance to observe one their feeding style, one of the first things you'll notice is that as soon as they catch their prey they make a dead run back to the den or the security of some other hiding place. I've never seen a mink eating its prey in the open.
Minks live near permanent water along streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands. They make their dens in a variety of places, including tree roots, bank cavities, logs, stumps, or in old muskrat burrows and lodges. The nest chamber, which may have several entrances, is about a foot in diameter and contains grass, leaves, fur and/or feathers. Mating occurs in late winter and young are born in spring. The young called kits begin running with their parents by mid-July learning how to hunt and catch prey. Maybe these young will learn to hang near fishermen for easier fishing!