Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Carnivora / Mustelidae / Mustela / Species
Mustela vison - American mink (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Vison d'Amerique (French)
  • Amerikanisscher Nerz (German)
  • Mink (German)
  • Vison (German)

Alternative species names (the second part of the binomial species names): [Genus] antiquus; [Genus] borealis; [Genus] energumenos; [Genus] evagor; [Genus] evergladensis; [Genus] ingens; [Genus] lacustris; [Genus] letifera; [Genus] lowii; [Genus] lutensis; [Genus] lutreocephala; [Genus] macrodon; [Genus] melampeplus; [Genus] mink; [Genus] minx; [Genus] nesolestes; [Genus] nigrescens; [Genus] rufa; [Genus] vulgivavus; [Genus] winingus (B141).

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males --
Names for females --

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General Appearance

Medium-sized mustelid, long sinuous body, long neck, small head, dark chocolate brown (usually white patches chin, chest, belly, groin), with slightly bushy tail about half of body length (B142).

Similar Species

Very similar to Mustela lutreola - European mink, but usually only sparse white spots on chin, not white lips and chin (B142, B144).
Sexual Dimorphism Males about 1.66-1.86 times size of females (B142).

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B51, B141, B142, B143, B144, B147, B148, B221

Husbandry references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

  • --

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Mustelidae

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Mustelidae

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Husbandry Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

  • Male: 330-450mm (B142); 330-430mm (B147); 14-22in./35-55cm (B144).
  • Female: 320- 370mm (B142); 300-400mm (B147); 12-18in./30-45cm (B144).
  • 30-43cm (B148).
Height --
Adult weight General 18oz-5lbs./500-2300g (B144).
Male 840-1805g (B142); 681-2,310g (B147).
Female 450-810g (B142); 7901,089g (B147).
New-born weight 0.2-0.4oz./6-12g (B144).
Growth rate Adult size by about four months (B142).

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General --




Dentition (Teeth) --
Eyes --

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Legs and Tracks


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Length: 12.7-22.9cm (B148);.
  • Male:150-220mm (B142)158-230mm (B147); 6-8.4in./15-22cm (B144).
  • Female: 135-190mm (B142); 128-200mm (B147); 5.2-7.2in./14-20cm (B144).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female
  • General: Rich dark brown. Guard hairs darker than underfur.
  • Ventral: usually paler (B147).
  • Chin, throat and ventral: Variable extent white hairs, spots or patches.

(B142, B144, B147, B148)

Variations (If present)
  • Black form (B143).
  • Silver-grey (B142).
  • Variety of colours bred on fur farms.

(B142, B143, B148)

Moult Twice yearly, photoperiod controlled (B142).
  • Spring moult: starts late March, completed mid-July.
  • Autumn moult: starts mid-August, complete mid-November.


New-born / Juvenile --

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics


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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

  • Reproductive: Up to eight teats palpable when lactating. Difficult to detect outside breeding season (B142)
  • Scent glands: paired anal glands open just inside anus. Proctodeal glands open into rectum. May also have ventral glands (B142).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season
  • 3-4 weeks around vernal equinox (B142); February-April (B147).
Oestrus / Ovulation
  • 3-4 week oestrus in breeding season. Induced ovulation (B142). Polyoestrus (B147).
Gestation / Pregnancy
  • Variably delayed implantation.
  • 39-72 days gestation (B142); 40-70 days (B144); 39-78 days (B147) - embryonic development 30-32 days (B147).
Parturition / Birth
  • Usually in May (B142); Late April-May (B147, B148) .
  • In nest lined with fur, feathers, dry vegetation (B147).
Neonatal development
  • 5-6 weeks: weaning starts (B142).
  • Birth: blind and naked.
  • 5 weeks eyes open.
  • 5 to 6 weeks weaned.
  • 7 to 8 weeks leave nest, start hunting.
  • Autumn separate from mother.


Litter size
Time between Litters / Litters per year
Lactation / Milk Production
  • 6-8 weeks (B142); about 3 months (B144).
Sexual Maturity
  • Year following birth (B142).
  • Female: 12 months, Male: 18 months (B147).
  • In first year (B144).
  • Females fecund for at least 7 years (B142).
  • "... almost complete turnover of the population every 3 years" - American study (B142).
  • About 10 years (B148); potential 10 years (B147); 8-10 years (B144).

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Natural Diet

Carnivorous, generalistic:
  • Mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates.
  • Rabbits often commonest prey, also small rodents and insectivores.
  • Ducks, coots, moorhens, gulls commonest birds taken.
  • Also frogs, toads, crayfish, molluscs.

(B142, B143, B144, B147, B148).

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces 5 to 8cm long, up to 1cm diameter, cylindrical with tapered ends. Usually dark green or brown when fresh, with unpleasant odour (B142).
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n=30 (B142).
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour

Opportunistic predator (B142, B143).

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Parental Behaviour


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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Generally solitary and hostile.
  • Territorial.
  • Variable territory size.
  • Minimal overlap between territories held by individuals of same sex.
  • Much overlap between territories held by opposite sexes.
  • Non-territorial, transient individuals particularly males in mating season.
  • May be temporary dominance hierarchy among males developed by fighting in mating season.
  • Juveniles disperse from August onwards.
  • Home range females 8-20 hectares males larger may be 800ha (B147).

(B142, B144)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Promiscuous (B142). Males commonly fight in mating season (B142).

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Predation in Wild

Otter, badger, golden eagle (B142).

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Activity Patterns

  • Run (bounding gait, up to 6.5km/hr).
  • Climb well.
  • Amphibious - swim very well, including underwater.
  • Availability and activity of prey may determine foraging activity.
  • Less active in winter than summer.

(B142, B147)

  • Mainly crepuscular/nocturnal.
  • Also active in daytime.

(B142, B144, B147)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • Aquatic habitats (rivers, lakes and coasts) preferred.
  • Particularly eutrophic streams/rivers/lakes with abundant bankside cover.
  • On canals if sufficient prey and cover.
  • Also swamps, marshes.
  • Also found away from water if suitable prey present.

(B51, B142, B143, B144, B148)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Nests in e.g. hole in bank, hollow tree, under tree roots.
  • Use beaver and muskrat houses.
  • Also self-excavated burrows, may be 3m long, 1m below surface. Entrance(s) just above water level.

(B147, B148)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Nearctic: most of North America (B143). Deciduous and coniferous forest zones, tundra (B142).
Occasional and Accidental --

Europe: Spreading populations from fur farm escapees in northern Europe (Scandinavia, France, Germany), Russia and former USSR, Iceland, British Isles, Spain (B142, B143, B148).

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Intraspecific variation

Superspecies with Mustela sibirica - Siberian weasel and Mustela lutreola - European mink (B142).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not endangered (B144).

In Britain: This introduced species is common and widespread. Pre-breeding population estimate of at least 110,000, with 46,750 in England, 52,250 in Scotland and an unknown number on the Isle of Arran, 9750 in Wales. Population estimate of this widely-distributed species was based on a limited amount of data and considered likely to be inaccurate by up to 50% in either direction (B221).

General Legislation
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats --
Captive Populations --
Trade --

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