Mink, a small, fur-bearing, carnivorous mammal, found in the northern parts of America, Europe, and Asia, belonging to the genus puto-rius (Cuv.), in which are included the ermine and common weasels, and to the sub-genus lutreola (Wagner). The minks have one molar less on each side above and below than the martens (mustela), and are therefore more carnivorous; the size is smaller, and the form more slender; the color is nearly uniform; the feet much webbed, and their pads large and naked, with the intervals not occupied by hairs. The common American mink (P. vison, Rich.) varies in length (from nose to base of tail) from 13 to 18 in., the tail being 8 to 10 in. additional; the general color is dark brownish, the tail nearly black, the chin white, but not the edge of the upper jaw; some specimens are lighter, even to yellowish brown; the head is broad and depressed, with truncated snout, short round ears, eyes small and far forward, long and rigid whiskers in four horizontal series; body long and vermiform, with long neck; short and stout limbs, with five-toed feet, armed with sharp claws; tail long and cylindrical, having on each side of the under surface a glandular cavity secreting a strong musky fluid, whence the generic name; mamma3 six, ventral.
The under fur is soft and downy, with larger and coarser hairs intermingled; the more southern the locality, the coarser and stiffer is the fur. The mink is an active, destructive depredator in the farm yard, sometimes killing several chickens in a single night, though less sanguinary than the weasel; it now and then catches a fish on its own account, and frequently steals those left by the angler; it feeds also on small rodents, marsh birds, frogs, and crawfish. It takes up its residence on the borders of ponds and small streams, especially near rapids and waterfalls; it is an excellent swimmer and diver, and a good runner; it rarely climbs trees, like the martens, unless hotly pursued; when killed in the water, it almost always sinks. It is readily caught in box or steel traps, or in deadfalls, baited with the head of a bird; it is very tenacious of life, and most active at night. In northern New York the breeding season begins toward the 1st of March, while the snow is on the ground; the young, five or six in number, are born about the end of April; when taken young, it is easily domesticated.
The fur of the mink was formerly considered hardly worth collecting, a skin selling for about 50 cents; but change of fashion afterward brought it into vogue and made it very valuable; it is fine, but shorter and less lustrous than that of the pine marten or American sable. (See Fuk.) The animal is very generally distributed in North America, from lat. 70° N. to Florida, and from ocean to ocean. Some specimens from the west are larger than the average. In the northern states there is a smaller and blacker variety; the fur is dark and remarkably soft, and considerably more valuable than that of the common mink. - The European mink (P. lutreola, Cuv.) is of smaller size, darker colored, with less bushy tail, and the edges of the upper lip white; it is a rare animal, with the same habits as the American species, and its fur is more highly esteemed; indeed it is often sold to the inexperienced for sable, and that of the American mink is generally called by furriers American sable, though the latter belongs to the genus mustela and is properly a marten.
American Mink (Putorius vison).