Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mink kit

The birding was a bit slow this weekend past at Magee Marsh and vicinity, at least compared to the prior two weekends. But as always will be the case when there are thousands of acres of marshes to explore, other interesting flora and fauna came to light. One of the cutest, albeit most savage, of those finds is featured below.

I was driving down the entrance road to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, when I saw a tiny tubular fur-bearer from the corner of my eye. “Weasel!” shouted I, and stopped for a look. I was hoping it was a Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata, which is fairly common throughout the state but devilishly hard to see well and photograph. But, with a better look the true identity quickly became apparent: the beast was a VERY young Mink, Mustela vison, another member of the weasel family.

The little fellow (young ones are known as kits) was only the size of a large bratwurst – and about that shape – but wasn’t scared of nuthin’, man. Here, he lets me know my place. The grass that he is in is mowed short, giving an idea of its diminutive stature. If all goes well, he’ll get much bigger. Adults can reach over two feet in length and weigh in excess of two pounds.

Here, the tubular shape so characteristic of weasels can be seen. Mink are common all over Ohio, but seldom seen. In all my wanderings, I’ve seen maybe 15-20 of them ever, and most were fleeting glimpses as the animal bounded along a stream bank in that curious undulating graceful flow that marks their modus of locomotion. Mink are largely nocturnal and thus not too likely to be seen well.

Note the streamlined head shape. Mink are strongly semiaquatic, living primarily around water. They can swim well, and are capable of capturing fish. Of course, the dense pelage, or fur, is well known and has superior insulating qualities and is lusciously soft. Its use in fur coats is legendary, and scores were once trapped for the fur industry. Skins of excellent quality could fetch $20.00 in the early 1900’s – a fortune for the times! – but are not worth nearly so much today, especially when inflation is factored in. There were once years when over 10,000 animals would be harvested in Ohio, but nowhere near that number are taken today. Most mink pelts come from animals raised on commercial farms.

Lest you think he is cute, think again. In spite of the tiny size of this youngster, he displayed no fear of me as I photographed him and attempted to herd him away from the road towards the ditch where mother mink lurked. Like all weasels, Mink are voracious predators. They’ll attack, kill and eat almost anything up to their size if not larger. A favorite prey item of this species is Muskrat, which nearly equal a Mink in size. After dispatching and consuming the unfortunate ‘skrat, the Mink will sometimes appropriate the victim’s lodge for a home.

But, to wax anthropomorphic, I guess there is no denying that a baby Mink is thoroughly “cute”.

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9 comments:

Susan Gets Native said...

I can find them cute, sure...but my heart hardens towards them when I think of the one that killed and ate our program barred owl and red-shouldered hawk. That must have been one hungry mink. (We know it was a mink because we caught the bugger inside the mews.)

Little ones? Cute.
Adult ones? Killers.
Cool that you got some photos of the little guy!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Blog gold, Jim! He is precious, in a feral, snakey kind of way. Hope he made it back to Mama and the rest. Was he vocalizing?

Tricia said...

Hey Jim, that baby mink is adorable, no matter how scientific you are :) I had a couple of pet rabbits fall victim to a mink that lived in our spring house when I was a kid, sad for the rabbits but it's not like the mink can just run down to Kroger for their supper, they gotta do their thing.

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks for your comments, ye minksters. Nope, Jules, no vocalizations - just a lot of teeth baring. The little fellow may not have known how to speak yet, though. It looked to only be a few days old.

And I definitely think it was cool, intriguing, yes, even cu.., I mean cuuu... Well, you know.

Bird Girl said...

Cute! Until he opens his mouth...then he does look rather nasty - but then I guess that's what minks do. It sure would be exciting to see one, though! Your pictures are perfect!

jalynn01 said...

no matter...killer or not.... still cute and I just loved his letting you know who was in charge. Looks like his teeth had not yet come in the whole way. Great photos.

ErFan_RaXeCracx said...

Can i ask you??
Cute mink..
Can i buy and take care of it?
Do i have to get a license to take this cute creature?
How much for a MINK?

Beel said...

I live in NW Columbus along the west side of Rt. 315. There is a small unnamned creek, a tributary of the Olentangy River, that flows behind my house.

A few days ago I saw what I thought was a black squirrel climbing down a tree. I know this tree has a squirrel's nest in it. But as the "black squirrel" ran on the ground, it moved much differently than a squirrel and the tail was not as bushy as a squirrel's.

Today I saw that same animal running along the edge of the creek. Definitely not a squirrel. It is very dark in color - not just a black tail tip. I'm thinking it's a mink.

About a year ago I saw something similar carrying something else in its mouth. It looked like it was maybe carrying a mouse - I saw a stringy tail hanging down. But it was 25 yards away and I just caught a brief view.

So I'm thinking that there are minks along the Olentangy River in NW Columbus.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I was at Lake Erie sitting on the rocks and suddenly a beautiful chocolate brown creature was starting at me just below my feet. At first I thought it was a ferret but now I am sure it was a mink. He was not mean though he just went inside the rocks.