Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Nature: Florida Mink
American mink found on both the atlantic and gulf coasts of FloridaMink are semi-aquatic mammals and members of the weasel family, which include otters, ferrets, badgers, and martens. Minks can be found near rivers, lakes, and marshes throughout North America and Canada. Mink occur in three distinct populations in Florida. Two populations of mink inhabit the salt marshes of the northern Gulf and Atlantic coasts; while the southern Florida population, the Everglades Mink (Mustela vison evergladensis), is listed as a threatened subspecies.

While mortality is extremely high in the early months of the life of the American mink, animals that do survive the first year can live as long as three years in the  wild. In captivity, mink can live 10-12 years and have on average 4-5 kits per litter once a year. The mink is found in places which suit its habits throughout almost all North America, from Florida to the Arctic. An endangered subspecies, the Everglades Mink, is endemic to the Florida Everglades

The mink, (Mustela vison), is found in Florida in coastal habitats along the Gulf Coast south to Hernando County and along the Atlantic Coast south to Matanzas Inlet. It is glossy, blackish brown with a long  slender body, averaging 20-24 inches, with  short legs and a long, 7-8 inch bushy tail. The mink has small rounded ears and a white chin. Florida mink are small to medium-sized, and their long tails are never banded. Mink are active primarily at night, foraging for food in the water and along the banks. Florida mink's diet consists of mammals, frogs, insects, birds, reptiles, and fish.
The Everglades mink is currently believed to be limited to the shallow freshwater marshes and long-hydroperiod swamps of the Fakahatchee Strand, Big Cypress Swamp, and southern portions of the Everglades. The Everglades mink is similar in appearance to the American mink but a darker brown. Historically it occupied a much larger range covering much of the northern Everglades and Lake Okeechobee region; however because of the wariness of the species habits, there are no historical or current estimates of the size or density of the population. The Everglades minks diet is primarily crayfish, fish, and small mammals.

A Florida mink near a riverbankMink are very territorial animals. A male mink will not tolerate another male within its territory, but appears to be less aggressive towards females. Generally, the territories of both male and female animals are separate, but a female's territory may sometimes overlap with that of a male. Very occasionally it may be totally within a male's. The mink's territories, which tend to be long and narrow, stretch along river banks, or around the edges of lakes or marshes. Sizes vary, but they can be several miles long. Female territories are smaller than those of the male. Each territory has one or two central areas (core areas) where the mink spends most of its time. The core area is usually associated with a good food supply, such as a pool rich in fish, or a good rabbit warren. The mink may stay in its core area, which can be quite small, for several days at a time, but it also makes excursions to the ends of its territory. These excursions seem to be associated with the defense of the territory against intruders. It is likely that the mink checks for any signs of a strange mink and leaves droppings (scats) redolent of its personal scent to reinforce its territorial rights. American minks are mainly active at night and do not hibernate.

Breeding season for minks in Florida is from late winter to spring. Male and female minks may have more than one partner. Mink show the curious phenomenon of delayed implantation. Although the true gestation period is 39 days, the embryo may stop developing for a variable period, so that as long as 76 days may elapse before the litter arrives. Between 45 and 52 days is normal. There is only one litter per year. They may have between six and ten cubs or kittens per litter.

Great Horned Owls, bobcat and fox are the natural predators of mink. However, mink are much more frequently killed by human activity. Mink are often hunted to protect the fish population of bodies of water, are hit by cars and are trapped for their fur (although more commonly farmed for their fur).  Their numbers have been reduced due to loss of habitat and the effects of pollution on their aquatic food supply. Mink oil is used in some medical products and cosmetics, as well as to treat, preserve and waterproof leather.
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