One of the best things about snow is we can see the tracks of the animals that live, or migrate through the Center. For much of this winter Schlitz Audubon staff have been preoccupied with Mink tracks surrounding Mystery Lake. But for the most part this Mink has been a phantom. Have you seen the mystery Mink at Mystery Lake?
The American Mink (Neovison vison) is native to Wisconsin and lives throughout North America. Adult Mink are between 12 – 18 inches long, with males being slightly larger than females. These animals burrow near bodies of water, live under tree roots, inside rock crevices, and other similar sized nooks and crannies. Mink are dark brown to black in color, and their oil glands make their fur water resistant.
Mink are carnivores. Their long, slim, and flexible bodies are perfect for entering the burrows of prey animals. They are known to most often predate on birds, rodents, crustaceans, fish, and eggs. These mammals are flexible opportunists, and their diet can change depending on what is available. So Mystery Lake is a perfect habitat for these weasels – relatives of badgers, otters, and wolverines. Similar to otters, Mink are also known to slide down snow-covered slopes.
Mink are athletic overachievers and excel at running and swimming. In snow, the tracks of Mink most often become apparent because of their unique bounding gait and five-toed feet. Mink kits start hunting at two months of age, and Mink are the only mammal that can delay implantation after mating, allowing them to determine the ideal environmental conditions for raising offspring.
Similar to skunks, these animals release a noxious scent when they feel threatened – so if you do see the mystery Mink at Mystery Lake it’s in your best interest to observe from a distance!
Visit Schlitz Audubon for a hike to Mystery Lake – and let us know if you catch a glimpse of the elusive the mystery Mink.