American Mink

American Mink

American Mink

The strange and elusive animal leaves its footprints on Jekyll Island

By Candice Dyer

A mink is astoundingly short, standing around two or three inches tall and weighing only a couple of pounds. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for with lithe, lissome length.

Typically, from its snout, accented with a “soul patch” of white fur, to the tip of its tapered tail, a mink can grow to two-and-a-half feet long—a sleek torpedo darting for long periods underwater. Minks are unusual in that they kill an excess of prey, including fish, small mammals, crustaceans, and waterfowl, which they stash to consume later.

“For such a small animal, they have large canine teeth,” says Joseph Colbert, wildlife manager for the Jekyll Island Authority. “They have been known to take down marsh rabbits.”

Baby minks, called kits, are adorably frolicsome, sliding on the mud and moss and generally making a splash, and a contented mink will purr like a cat. But when cornered, the animals will hiss, screech, and emit a pungent musk, much like a skunk. Humans rarely experience such encounters, though.

American Mink

“You usually don’t see them, but if you notice a hole that’s around four inches in diameter in a riverbank, that likely is where a mink has burrowed,” says Kara Day, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “If you’re really observant, you may see its footprints in the silt when the tide goes out, but you have to know what you’re looking for. They’re very furtive, elusive, and secretive animals.”

And no wonder they’re dodgy, given how prized their lustrous, chocolatey pelts remain. (Mink trapping, along with any sort of hunting or animal collecting, is illegal on Jekyll.)

“The brackish marshes and dunes are a real stronghold for minks,” Colbert says, noting that the stealthy creature can sometimes be glimpsed crossing the causeway.

This article first appeared in Volume 2 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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