Zoology

What do Mink Eat



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The diet of the North American mink can be generally characterized by its scientific order Carnivora which it shares with the likes of wolves, lions and tigers. These animals are all carnivores which mean meat eating animals. Following the taxonomy, mink belong to the Mustelidae family which means weasel and they look very similar to the otter. Depending on where they live and what food is available in their territories reflect what their diet consists of. Mink are prevalent in the United States and can be found in most all areas except for the Southwestern deserts.

The North American mink (Neovison vison) can be found in the wild and domesticated on mink farms across the country. The diet of the two groups is not the same other than the fact that they both eat meat.

Wild mink

The diet of the wild North American mink is as diverse as the area they live. Usually close to waterways, the mink are fairly adept swimmers and can stay under water for long periods of time. This is a great advantage when fishing, however, their eyesight is not very good underwater so they usually spot fish from the shore and then go in after them. They also eat crayfish and other crustaceans found in rivers and streams. Mink eat a lot in comparison to their size. With females averaging .33-1.5lbs and males weighing in at 1.8-2.8lbs you would not think that they would eat much, but not true. Mink eat large amounts of food due to their high metabolism and large protein needs. Mink usually hunt or fish at night but can be found doing the same during the day. Mink do not hibernate so they must hunt and fish year round with their protein needs expanded during cold weather. Wild mink hunt small mammals such as mice and chipmunks. They also eat squirrels, rats, snakes, birds, eggs and frogs. Frogs are the main dietary source of protein for the American mink living in Europe. Larger male mink will hunt larger prey including small rabbits, baby beaver and muskrat. Wild mink can cause hardship to farmers as they will sneak into hen houses and eat chickens, eggs and ducks. Mink also eat dead animals but seem to prefer the spoils of their own hunt.

Domesticated mink

Mink that live on mink farms have to depend on the farmers who are caring for them. Domesticated mink are larger than their wild counterparts averaging 3.08lbs for females and 5-6lbs for males. The weight difference is not by accident as domesticated mink are selectively bred, usually raised for their fur. Mink farms are a benefit to people as they recycle waste caused by human’s huge meat producing industries. By-products from these processing plants are purchased by the fur farms and mixed together to feed the mink. Certain levels of protein, ash and fat are required to keep the mink healthy and strong. Just like the wild mink, domesticated mink will eat what is prevalent in the area where the farm is located. Mink farms along the waterways will feed more fish by-products than mink farms in the Midwest. Midwest farmers will feed more chicken and beef by-products along with old eggs and cheese as well. All the diverse diets seem to work well with mink but their nutritional needs are complex and should be researched further if you plan on raising mink. The Fur Commission USA can help you with research and guidance if mink farming is in your future.

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