Keep an Eye Out
by Joyce Furfaro
Did you know that we have mink around here? Yeah, I was surprised when I saw my first one along Bald Eagle Creek about two years ago. I’ve seen them twice since. You have to be on the lookout and prepared for a brief visual of them – they’re sneaky, slinky, and low to the ground. A video I wish I had taken of one along the creek can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xpy1sGnvMhk.
What to look for – Mink are a bit less than 2 feet long, slender, silky, generally dark brown, and move with an long arched back on short legs. They remind me of overgrown ferrets at first glance. They usually travel alone unless it’s mating season (January-March). When a mink spots you, it will move toward a den or hiding spot. They are more active after the sun sets, but due to their hearty appetite, they often come out during the day looking for food.
Where to look – They live near water, which is why they’re a good one for paddlers to keep an eye out for. For example, I’ve twice seen them just before the I-80 bridge on the Bald Eagle Creek, and the video link above is somewhere along Spring Creek. They can be found near any waterway, be it moving or still, but they hover near the shore where they keep nests (in hollow logs, stumps, or muddy banks with small holes). They are also great swimmers, diving down 15 feet or more, darting through the water using the webbed toes of the back feet. Mink live in most every state in the US.
What do these guys eat – Mink are carnivorous, and expert hunters. They prefer muskrats and other small mammals, but they are also happy to feast on birds, frogs, and fish, and even small rabbits and turtles.
Similar creatures – Mink and river otters are easily confused. The mink is considerably smaller (the mink is closer in size to a normal cat, while the otter is about the size of a medium dog), and darker in color. There are other subtle differences, but the size difference is usually the telling factor.