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February 22, 2013

Minks make the great outdoors even better

The Daily Star

---- — I was about 11 or 12 when I saw my first mink. It was in the spring and I was fishing up the road in the Harrison Creek for some brook trout.

As I drifted a nice, fat nightcrawler down through a riff into a deeper pool, I noticed some movement to my right. A small, brownish-black animal was ducking in-and-out of a hole in the creek bank.

I stayed perfectly still and watched it for several minutes. Finally, the little animal crossed the creek and disappeared around the bend.

An old-timer in the house across the way told me it was a mink. I actually saw it several more times that summer as I swam and fished in the brook. One day I caught several horned dace, a large minnow that inhabited that creek. I left them in a pile where I had previously seen the mink. They were gone in the morning.

The mink is the most popular semi-aquatic carnivore in the area. It seems that wherever there is water, there are mink.

A mink has a long, sleek body up to two feet long, including its tail. It also has short, stubby legs, a long neck and a rounded head with small ears and beady eyes. They have partially webbed feet and are probably more agile in the water than they are on land. They vary in color from dark brown to black, with a white or yellow bib on their chest.

Mink eat muskrats, rabbits, mice, fish, snakes and birds. They usually kill small mammals by biting their prey in the neck or the back of the head. Mink chase their meals with a bounding motion but swim with an undulating movement of their bodies.

I was driving back from Stamford one day and passed a strange animal in the road on a bridge not far from Butts Corner. It had been hit by a car. The animal was pale in color, so I stopped and walked back. It was a light tan – almost blond – mink.

It was in the late fall and the pelt was prime, so I took it home and skinned it. Later, I took it along with some muskrat hides to a buyer. He figured it was a farm-raised mink that had escaped from its pen. It didn’t have the quality fur that a wild mink has, but he gave me 10 bucks for it anyway.

Mink pelts were highly sought after by fur trappers for years. Back before the anti-fur movement, every lady wanted a mink coat. It was the trend. Their beautiful, thick underfur and long guard hairs made it very desirable.

I watched a mother mink and three kits one day along Cisco Brook in the Adirondacks many years ago. They were in-and-out of the water, swimming back-and-forth to chase some small trout that lived in the pool. It was fun watching those little ones swim after the fish as they darted under the overhanging bank. I figured it was lesson time for the family, and mom was doing a good job teaching the little guys how to fish.

Just writing this short article has brought back a lot of memories.

I watched a mink on Dunning Creek one day jump from rock to rock to rock in front of me. Another one crossed a beaver dam with a nice brookie in its mouth while I fished up Jimmy Creek. Then there was the one that kept peeking out at me from under a small wooden bridge on the Northville-Placid Trail. He was so curious and stayed around long enough that I even got a picture of him.

I hadn’t thought of those wonderful times in so long, but the mink made that whole memory possible. They are beautiful animals and such a great part of nature.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at