mink, semiaquatic carnivorous mammal of the genus Mustela, closely related to the weasel and highly prized for its fur. One species, Mustela vison, is found over most of North America and another, M. lutreola, inhabits Europe—where it is now rare except in Russia—and central Asia. The mink has a slender, arched body, with a long neck, short legs, and a bushy tail. The fur is thick and shiny; in wild strains it is rich brown all over the body, except for a white throat patch. Like other members of the weasel family, minks have musk glands that produce an acrid secretion. Excellent swimmers, they usually live near water, where they catch much of their food. The American mink feeds on aquatic mammals, such as muskrat, as well as fish, frogs, crustaceans, and birds. It is about 20 to 28 in. (51–71 cm) long, including the 7 to 9 in. (18–23 cm) tail. Much of the mink used in the fur trade is bred and raised on farms, where many color varieties have been produced. Descendants of escaped farm animals have established mink populations where none previously existed, e.g., in Great Britain and Iceland. Minks are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Mustelidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.