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An Unexpected Pleasure in the Wild With the American Mink

American Mink…

I had the unexpected pleasure of watching 4 or more mink today. They were popping in and out of open water areas on a still iced in pond, doing quite well at catching fish. They were so enjoyable to watch, it was fun trying to figure out where they would pop out next. Even though they are not supposed to be social animals as the adults are usually solitary, they seemed to be a family. Early spring is also mating season so perhaps that has something to do with it… Mink kits are born in April.

Back in the early to mid 1900’s mink fur was greatly demanded and valued for coats and other fur items. The farmed mink’s fur wasn’t the same as the more desirable wild mink fur. I was curious to see what mink prices are fetching today and was gladdened when the site stated that “with the decreased demand for fur overall…” mink were only getting around $10 a pelt. Still they are demanded and trapped, for that reason, this location stays a secret by me…

Please share if you’d like. Prints available at www.pamelakaraz.com. This was taken with my Nikon D500 and Nikkor 600mm f4 FL ED lens with a 2X teleconverter. Copyright Pamela Underhill Karaz, all rights reserved.

Some interesting facts from the DEC website on mink:

Mink have a long, thin body and neck, short legs, and a 6-8 inch bushy tail. Male mink generally are larger than females and may exceed two feet in length. The fur is dark brown on the back, blending into a slightly lighter shade on the belly. A distinguishing mink characteristic is the small white patch of fur on the chin of all animals. Mink fur is very soft and lustrous. The dense underfur is protected by oily guard hairs that tend to waterproof the coat.

Mink are distributed throughout all of New York State and most of the United States and Canada. They occupy a wide variety of wetland habitat types including streams, rivers, lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes and coastlines. Mink kits are born between April and June. Their eyes are closed, they are hairless, and they weigh about 1/4 ounce at birth.

Mink are primarily nocturnal with most activity spent feeding. Their list of prey species is varied. Food items include small mammals, fish, birds and amphibians. Mammals such as muskrats, rabbits and small rodents lead the list as the most important food for mink. Waterfowl, small marsh-nesting birds, and crayfish also are important summer foods, while fish are a common food item of mink during the winter months.

Mink are equally at home in water or on land. It often is possible to find areas along a stream where they have come up through a hole in the ice to begin their foraging activities along the stream.

The demand for mink pelts and fur has an interesting history. The prestige of owning a mink coat has been associated with high society, or individuals with the financial resources to afford such a garment. During the first half of this century, most mink coats were made with pelts of wild caught mink. Ranch mink production in North America increased ten-fold from 1953 to 1966. This large number of ranch mink tended to stabilize the market by providing a constant supply of fur at a more reasonable price than wild caught mink. The large supply and reasonable price of mink fur created a secondary market for stoles, jackets, and garments trimmed with mink fur. This enabled individuals of moderate income to become buyers of mink.

North American mink farm production declined by 65 percent between 1967 and 1974 due to the increase in the world supply of ranch mink produced primarily in Europe. An increase in the demand for fur garments during the mid-1970’s reversed this downward trend in North American ranch mink production. There was an increase in the prices paid for all fur. This was followed by a decline in the demand for fur garments in the mid-80’s. This most recent decline has reduced and stabilized the price of all hides, including wild caught mink.

The depressed fur market of today discourages many who trapped during the 70’s, when fur prices were at some of the highest levels of the century. However, while the number of trappers has declined over the past few years, interest in mink trapping has not.

Despite the uncertainty of the fur market, the interest in mink remains a high priority among trappers.

 

Pamela Underhill Karaz:
Prints available at www.pamelakaraz.com.
Copyright Pamela Underhill Karaz, all rights reserved.

 

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