Catch a glimpse of mink

Sometimes, on a quiet summer afternoon, you can catch a brown or black furry figure loping along the river path.

The mink has established itself well in the Alouette River area. Both the black and brown North American  mink were introduced  here commercially as early as the 1930s, when the mink industry became established.

Mink farming was big business back then, as fur collars, cuffs, coats and hats were a mark of success, and farm-bred Canadian mink were considered the best in the world.

This practice continued here until the 1950s, when the last mink farm closed.

The wild mink were also trapped for this market and a woman of fashion could have her choice of farmed or wild fur.

Mink footprints are easy to spot. When running, they place their back feet directly over the print of their front ones as they move in a bounding motion.

These five-toed, semi-aquatic creatures are related to the weasel family, and it is difficult to tell now who descended from those animals who escaped or were let go into the wild, or which are truly wild, as interbreeding between them was quickly established.

Unfortunately, the poor mink is pray for many other species: owls, foxes, bobcats and domestic dogs, to name a few. So it relies on speed  and sharp teeth for safety.

Humans, too, can be a danger as no one wants their hen house raided.  If allowed to become too numerous, mink would quickly devastate the area of its favourite food, so legal trapping is allowed.

The mink has a varied diet, ranging from birds eggs to frogs and a tasty salamander goes down well, if it can be caught.

Foraging at night, these speedy predators have little trouble feeding themselves and the abundance of varied food in the area makes for a healthy mink population.

It is rare for a daytime sighting, but if you see a quick black or brown flash in the grasses by the river, you can bet it’s a mink.

Liz Hancock is a member of the Alouette River Management Society.


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