Wild Fact #569 – The Triathlete of the Animal Kingdom – American Mink

Wild Fact #569 – The Triathlete of the Animal Kingdom – American Mink

Photograph by Garry Richer

Is it just me or has it been a crazy couple of days for the journalists out there? The Newspapers have been busy with Canadian Elections and the death of Bin Laden.  I think it is time to take a break from all of that though and learn about the American Mink.  You know, the cute little member of the weasel family that is often used as a coat or mittens.  But instead of talking about their fashion sense, we will focus on their biology and behaviour.  So what do you say, you want to break up all this heavy news with a nice light-hearted animal fact?  Of course you do!

The American Mink is a semi-aquatic mammal that is native to North America (for all my friends across the ocean – the European Mink is native to Europe but the American version has also been introduced….and is causing declines in the native mink population).  You may often see the American Mink hanging out around lakes and rivers while they look for a quick snack.  Just so you know they tend to snack on rodents, fish, crustaceans, frogs and of course birds.  If you can’t tell by their diet, the Mink is definitely a carnivore.

Photo by Garry Richer

Whether on land or water, the mink is quite efficient in moving around.  While on land they will use a bounding gait to move from one place to another and can do so quite quickly.  Just how quick?  Well my friends, they are able to move at about 6.5 km/hr (4 mph) and can be difficult to catch.  Once they hit the water, the American Mink will swim by using undulating movements of their body.  They are quite proficient swimmers and are capable for swimming up to 3 hours without stopping, in warm water.  They have to be careful in the cold water though since they can die within 27 minutes.  Who wants to swim in freezing cold water anyway? When diving, the American Mink will undergo a state of rapid bradycardia (a fancy way of saying they will slow their heart down).  This behaviour will let them conserve their oxygen.  I am starting to think the American Mink is actually a triathlete since they are proficient on land, water and are also decent tree climbers.  Is there anything the Mink can’t do?

That does it for our light-hearted Wild Fact.  You can now go back to your emotional and heavy news broadcast.  Enjoy the rest of your day!

2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Emma Springfield May 03, 2011

    My father used to play at raising minks.They are not good for pets but they are so soft.

    • Avatar
      Nathan May 04, 2011

      That is interesting, Emma! I never thought of having a mink as a pet but good to know that they won’t out compete the dog as “Man’s Best Friend”. They definitely are soft, which is probably why they are sought after to make fur coats.

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