The na­ture of things

Amer­i­can Mink

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston

IT bounds across the grass, but what is it? Too long and slinky in the body to be a cat, yet surely too small to be an ot­ter. Too large and too dark for a weasel, but, there, in it goes, straight into the wa­ter for a swim.

Fast, fear­less and in pos­ses­sion of busi­nesslike claws and sharp teeth, the Amer­i­can mink is re­lated to ot­ters, weasels and fer­rets and has only es­tab­lished it­self in Bri­tain within the past cen­tury, when var­i­ous es­capees from cap­tiv­ity dis­cov­ered they could find easy food and shel­ter, par­tic­u­larly in the vicin­ity of lakes and river­banks. Along the wa­ter­ways, it has been far too suc­cess­ful a preda­tor of na­tive wa­ter voles, which are now scarce, but, as well as din­ing on as­sorted ro­dents, mink are op­por­tunis­tic car­ni­vores, par­tial to fish, crus­taceans, birds (chiefly moorhens, coots and ducks), frogs and even rab­bits.

As well as be­ing a con­sum­mate swim­mer, div­ing in short bursts to turn over peb­bles on the riverbed or search out aquatic prey among the reeds, Neo­vi­son vi­son can also climb trees—yes, the odds re­ally are stacked in favour of it be­ing able to find a square meal some­where, at any given time. And as they don’t hi­ber­nate, there’s a rea­son­able chance of spot­ting one in win­ter, when leaf cover is dra­mat­i­cally re­duced. KBH

Illustration by Bill Dono­hoe

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