11:32 p.m. - 2005-02-18
I was driving near Lake of the Isles the other day when I recalled a happy memory of R and I taking a canoe excursion there this fall.
It was an unseasonably warm day, and we were paddling happily from Calhoun, to Lake of the Isles, and were approaching the dark, narrow, mysterious passage to Cedar Lake when...we saw a brown animal running around! I said, "Is that a muskrat?" Just then, some canoers coming from the other direction said, "Did you see that mink running around?"
And indeed, we were able to observe the mink running along the riverbank! It was sniffing out something, maybe some squirrels?
From a distance mink and muskrat do look similar; they are both brown, similar in size, and live near water. But a mink is a member of the weasel family (Mustela vison), and the muskrat a rodent. In fact, muskrats are some of the main meals for mink!
La la la, a picture from www.nhptv.org!
Apparently mink are attracted to carrion, but also eat fish, amphibians, birds and small rodents. They will travel up to several miles looking for nourishment.
The size of the mink is related to the size of their neighborhood body of water. Those living near streams are smaller than marsh-dwelling mink.
Mink have an active love life; they hook up about this time of year and 40 days later four to eight babies are born - called "kittens"! At first the kittens are white-haired, then grow fuzzy reddish hair, and by six months have a normal coat. (Don't you want to see some?!)
Of course mink fur is very important for the garment industry. They are the most successfully farmed fur-bearing mammal in the United States. I think the attractive part of mink fur is caused by the fact that they are aquatic animals; there is a fuzzy, insulating underlayer with longer, shiny, waterproof hairs on top. This is very similar to beaver and muskrat fur.
To waterproof their fur mink produce a musky-smelling oil in glands near their rear. If you go to the zoo (or my Dad's trapping shed!) you'll notice this potent odor near the mink and otter displays.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the mink, and I encourage careful searching if you decide to take a canoe trip near Cedar Lake. Keep your eye out for our weasel-y friend, the mink! (Also, canoe trips are romantic, AND an upper-body workout!)