Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mink: long, low, and slinky

A young mink, Neovison vison (formerly placed in the genus Mustela), snarls at your blogger from a grassy roadside verge. I made this photo a few years ago, along the entrance road to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Yes, the minklet looks "cute" but rest assured he/she is every bit the savage predatory tubular sausage that is the stuff of which lesser creatures' nightmares are made.

Photo: Bill Fisher

In an utterly remarkable coincidence, I was motoring down the causeway that bisects Magee Marsh Wildlife Area last Sunday, when a gorgeous adult mink shot across the road. The Magee causeway is only a few miles from where I made the first photo, of the juvenile mink. That was quite cool indeed, as I probably see only one or two of these weasels a year, at best.

But the proximity of my two Ottawa County mink sightings was not the remarkable coincidence that I speak of. At almost the exact time that I watched last Sunday's mink tear across the road, my Droid chimed to let me know of an incoming email. I checked it a bit later, to see that it was Bill Fisher sending along a stunning series of... mink photos!

Bill is Director of the Crawford County Park District and an enthusiastic outdoorsman. He was in the park system's Lowe-Volk Park on Friday, April 13th, when he encountered the beast in these photos and Bill was kind enough to allow me to share them.

ASIDE: The Crawford County Park District is relatively young, but it ranks among Ohio's top park systems in terms of creativity and activity. Thus, it was fabulous news when Crawford County voters easily passed a 0.4 mill, 10 year levy last month to support the park district. Its passage speaks to the quality of the Crawford County Park District, and the connections its employees have made with the county's citizenry.

 Photo: Bill Fisher

In Bill's first photo, the mink is entering a crevice between a few rocks. It may be hunting, but I wonder if that is its den site. Such a cranny would be perfect for a mink nest, and hopefully Bill and/or Josh Dyer and/or Warren Uxley can keep tabs on the situation. With a bit of luck and good timing, they might get to photograph some "cute" minklets such as the one in the first photo.

Mink seek out fissures between rocks, gaps between tree roots and similar sites for denning. A bit more grisly is their not uncommon appropriation of muskrat lodges for such purposes. You've seen muskrat lodges - they're those roundish heaps of cattails piled in the waters of shallow marshes. If a mink decides it wants to commandeer a 'skrat lodge, it enters and kills the rightful owner.

 Photo: Bill Fisher

Like the rest of its weasel brethren, mink are voracious predators and strict carnivores. They'll run down everything from fish to frogs to birds to rabbits. To go totally anthropomorphic, mink are like low-slung mammalian homicidal psychopaths, and nothing smaller is safe from a hungry mink on patrol. Every now and again, one manages to weasel its way into someone's chicken coop, and the aftermath isn't pleasant. Chances are good that the mink will kill every chicken in there. Can't blame the mink, though - they're just doing what minks do. And they were here long before coops stuffed with tasty chickens.

Photo: Bill Fisher

I love this shot. Major kudos to Bill and his camera work. Having some knowledge and experience with these mammals in the wild, I can attest to just how difficult it is to get one in the camera's view finder long enough to make such a photo. It's behavior in allowing such an approach makes me wonder all the more if its den isn't in those rocks. This is the time of year when they are raising young, too.

As can be surmised from this mink's damp fur, these animals are highly aquatic and nearly always found in close proximity to water. The pelt is water-resistant and has wonderful insulating qualities. Its cloak of dense silky fur allow the mink to operate throughout the winter, shunning the hibernatory ways of less hardy mammals. The fur is also coveted by humans, and a mink coat is regarded as a major status symbol in some quarters. A well made full length mink coat can fetch upwards of $10,000. Wild trapped mink pelts are currently trading for about $21.00. Most mink fur today comes from so-called "mink ranches", and that's a whole other subject and not necessarily a pleasant one. I'd far rather see my mink in the wild, and mink fur harvested responsibly from wild animals.

Thanks to Bill Fisher for sharing his fabulous photos.


flux biota. said...

"predatory tubular sausage"

I spit out my coffee. damn hilarious. nice post.

dwhr said...

Great post, thanks.

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks for your comments, and sorry to make you spew coffee, Flux!