By Rae Schindler
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds
People in Martinez go wild for local wildlife. In fact, this enthusiastic city held its inaugural “Beaverfest” earlier this summer, a celebration of a local beaver population that has grown over the past few years. Now there is more cause to celebrate. A new cute and cuddly critter has joined the Martinez community: minks. Minks are native to the Bay Area, but are quite rare. Their presence is a sign of a healthy creek and is an exciting addition to the watershed.
In the 1950’s and 60’s a mink stole was a must-have fashion accessory. Women would throw the long, furry body and stubby feet over their shoulder on their way out the door. In nature, these creatures grow to about twenty-four inches long. The female minks weigh in at around one and half pounds, while the male weighs a little over two pounds. Minks have a rich and glossy coat that naturally varies among shades of brown, sometimes with white patches on under its chin or underside. Farm-bred minks can be white or gray.
The American mink is indigenous to San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s rare. Minks are found in North America from Alaska to Florida and even in Europe. The eponymous European mink can be found in Ukraine, Estonia, Spain, France and Russia. Its thick, waterproof fur helps this creature live comfortably near water.
The mink flashes its canine teeth and, with a quick snap of the jaw, bites into the neck or head of its prey. The males and females both eat frogs, fish and crayfish. The females will also eat songbirds. Heftier males crave more substantial fare like rabbits and muskrats. Basically these carnivores feast on any small mammal they get their claws into.
Mating and Life Span
Minks live between four and five years in the wild, and females have four to six babies per litter. Baby minks will live with their mother for six months.
Thankfully, over time social consciousness about mink farming has risen, helping the mink population gain numbers. Unfortunately, European minks are still endangered. American states have put laws into place to protect these creatures, causing local mink communities to be much larger than their European cousins.