A mink is a carnivore in the family Mustelidae, native to the Northern Hemisphere. These animals are probably most famous for their distinctively sleek, soft fur, which has caused hunters to pursue them for centuries. There are two living species: European and American mink. The two species are remarkably similar, which can sometimes make it difficult to determine which species one is looking at.
Like other creatures in the weasel family, mink have famously long, sleek bodies and short legs. Because these animals are semiaquatic, they have webbed hind feet to help them swim, along with small ears to reduce drag in the water. They also have pointed snouts and small, beady eyes which they use to seek out fish and other aquatic prey.
Mink can potentially be found almost anywhere where there is water, although the range of these creatures has declined radically, due to the fact that they suffer from habitat loss, hunting, and pollution. The animals spend much of their time in the water, although they breed and nest on land, producing litters of babies known as kits. Their diet can vary; in addition to aquatic animals such as fish and crustaceans, the animals can also eat small mammals on land.
Wild mink are dark brown, with American minks having a small white patch on their chins. Breeders have produced a range of colors, including white and black, for the fur market. Their sleek fur is designed to provide insulation in cold environments such as water, which is one reason why it is so prized by furriers; the fur is also naturally water-resistant, thanks to oils secreted by the animals to keep their fur and skin dry.
These creatures have a distinctive musky odor, which they use to signal each other and to mark territory. Although minks cannot spray like their relatives the skunks, their strong odor is perceived as distasteful by many other creatures, which tend to give them a wide berth. Mink are also not known for their gentle nature; they have sharp claws and teeth, and they are not afraid to use them.
Mink bred for fur farms are slightly different than wild ones, as they have been specially bred to produce specific traits useful to furriers. For this reason, it is not recommended or safe to release rescued mink into the wild, as they will not fare well in the natural environment, and they could hurt native populations if they cross-bred with wild mink.