Animals -> Mammals -> Furbearers -> Mink


Cultures trapped American mink mainly for its fur [1-4], including Micmac (Mi'kmaq), Omushkego Cree, and Vunta Kutchin [5, 6]. In addition to using its fur, cultures that used the flesh as an emergency food include the Northern Coast Salish, Hare (Sahtu), Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in), Crow River Kutchin, Tahltan, Koyukon, Kotzebue Sound Inupiat, Chipewyan of Stony Rapids, Plains Cree, Round Lake Ojibwa (Anishinabek) and Attawapiskat Cree [2, 3, 7-14]. Mink was also trapped by the Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), Okanagan, Eyak, Ingalik, Chipewyan, Waswanipi, Nemiscau Cree, Mistissini Cree and Labrador Inuit [15-23]. Mink remains were found at a Tlingit archeological site on Admiralty Island, suggesting the animal was used [24].

Mink was most often trapped when the weather was colder and the fur was thick [18, 19, 21, 25, 26]. It was typically only eaten at the beginning of winter or end of summer when they were still fat [27]. Mink was caught mostly in deadfalls, but snares and other traps were also used [16, 17, 28-31]. When steel traps became available they quickly replaced traditional traps such as deadfalls. Mink was trapped near drinking pools and streams [27, 32, 33].

With the growth of the fur trade, mink became more prominent in the indigenous diet [7]. The Salish added mink to soups and stews to which wild vegetable or dried seaweed was added for flavoring [34]. The Mistissini Cree hung mink bones in trees and saved the scent glands for trapping other animals [27].


1.         Meyer D: Appendix I: Plants, Animals and Climate; Appendix IV: Subsistence-Settlement Patterns. In: The Red Earth Crees, 1860-1960. Volume 1st edition, edn.: National Musem of Man Mercury Series; 1985: 175-185-200-223.

2.         Osgood C: Material Culture: Food. In: Contributions to the Ethnography of the Kutchin. edn. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1936: 23-39.

3.         Raby S, Bone RM, Shannon EN: An Historic and Ethnographic Account to the 1920's. In: The Chipewyan of The Stony Rapids Region; a study of their changing world with special attention focused upon caribou. Volume 1st edition, edn. Edited by Bone RM. Saskatoon: Institute for Northern Studies, University of Saskatchewan; 1973: 12-47.

4.         Suttles WP: Coast Salish and Western Washington Indians. In: Coast Salish and Western Washington Indians The Economic Life of the Coast Salish of Haro and Rosario Straits. edn. New York & London: Garland Publishing Inc.; 1974.

5.         Berkes F, George PJ, Preston RJ, Hughes.A, Turner J, Cummins BD: Wildlife Harvesting and Sustainable Regional Native Economy in the Hudson and James Bay Lowland, Ontario. Arctic 1994, Vol. 47 No. 4:350-360.

6.         Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of animals and plants by the Micmac Indians of New Brunswick. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1951, 41(8):250-259.

7.         Rogers ES: Equipment for Securing Native Foods and Furs. In: The Material Culture of the Mistassini. edn.: National Museum of Canada, Bulletin 218; 1967: 67-88.

8.         Hara HS: The Hare Indians and Their World. In. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada; 1980: 95-147.

9.         Honigmann JJ: Foodways in a Muskeg Community: An Anthropological Report on the Attawapiskat Indians. Ottawa: Northern Co-ordination and Research Centre, Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources; 1948.

10.       Emmons GT: The Tahltan Indians, vol. Anthropological Publications Vol. IV No. 1. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania: The Museum; 1911.

11.       Burch ES, Jr.: Kotzebue Sound Eskimo. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Edited by Damas D. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1984: 303-311.

12.       Clifton JA, Cornell GL, McClurken JM: People of The Three Fires: The Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibway of Michigan. Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council; 1986.

13.       Mandelbaum DG: The Plains Cree: An Ethnographic, Historical, and Comparative Study, vol. 1st edition. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center; 1979.

14.       McFadyen Clark A: Koyukon. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6: Subarctic. edn. Edited by Helm J. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1981: 582-590.

15.       Labrador Inuit Association: Our Footprints Are Everywhere: Inuit Land Use and Occupancy in Labrador. Nain: Labrador Inuit Association; 1977.

16.       Arima EY: The West Coast People: The Nootka of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery, vol. Special Publication No. 6. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Provincial Musem; 1983.

17.       Birket-Smith K, DeLaguna F. In: The Eyak Indians of the Copper River Delta, Alaska. edn. Kobenhavn: Levin & Munksgaard; 1938.

18.       Feit HA: Waswanipi Realities and Adaptations: Resource Management and Cognitive Structure. In.; 1978.

19.       Gabriel L: Food and Medicines of the Okanakanes. Okanagan Historical Society Annual Report 1954, No. 18:21-29.

20.       Rogers ES: The Nemiscau Indians. The Beaver 1965, 296:30-35.

21.       Snow JH: Ingalik. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6: Subarctic. edn. Edited by Helm J. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1981: 602-607.

22.       Tanner A: Bringing Home Animals: Religious Ideology and Mode of Production of the Mistassini Cree Hunters, vol. 1st edition. London: C. Hurst & Company; 1979.

23.       Smith JGE: Chipewyan. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6: Subarctic. edn. Edited by Helm J. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1981: 271-277.

24.       de Laguna F: The Story of a Tlingit Community: A Problem in the Relationship between Archeological, Ethnological, and Historical Methods. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office; 1960.

25.       Kennedy DID, Bouchard RT: Northern Coast Salish. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: 1990; 1990: 441-445.

26.       Columbia GoB: Vol 3: Interior Salish. Victoria: British Columbia Department of Education; 1966.

27.       Rogers ES: The Quest for Food and Furs: The Mistassini Cree, 1953-1954. Ottawa: Museums of Canada; 1973.

28.       Codere H: Kwakiutl: Traditional Culture. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 259-365.

29.       Honigmann JJ: The Kaska Indians: An Ethnographic Reconstruction. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1954.

30.       Lahren SL, Jr.: Kalispel. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 283-288.

31.       Ross JA: Spokane. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 271-282.

32.       Ashwell R: Food, Fishing & Hunting; Cooking Methods. In: Coast Salish: Their Art, Culture and Legends. Volume 1st edition, edn. British Columbia: Hancock House Publishers Inc.; 1978: 28-55.

33.       Ritzenthaler RE: Southern Chippewa. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 15: Northeast. edn. Edited by Trigger BG. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1978: 743-747.

34.       Batdorf C: Northwest Native Harvest. Surrey, B.C: Hancock House Publishers Ltd.; 1990.


The American mink (Neovison vison) is a medium-sized mammalian carnivore occurring from Alaska to Newfoundland, except in the High Arctic, and across central and southeastern United States. They are semi-aquatic and prefer habitats along water, especially where water banks are forested or densely vegetated.

American minks are members of the mustelid family, including weasels, the wolverine (Gulo gulo), the American marten (Martes americana), the fisher (Martes pennanti), and otter. They are most closely related to smaller weasels, all being within the same genus. Like other member of the weasel family, American minks have dense fur, highly prized in the fur industry, long canines, rounded ears, short limbs, and a long, slender body. Adults typically weigh 1 kg and males are generally bigger than females. In the wild, they have a rich dark brown pelage, except for a white spot on the chin, throat, and chest, while on fur farms, they can vary from amber gold, sapphire, to iris blue.

American minks are solitary and have their home ranges generally around or along water bodies. They are polygamous and mate from mid-winter to spring. Like many other weasels, female minks can delay the implantation of the embryo to give birth in a more favorable season. This leads to an apparent gestation period of over 50 days, while true pregnancy occurs for only about 30 days. Each year, they produce one litter of 3-6 fast growing young that are weaned after 5-6 weeks. American minks have a varied diet and feed on crayfish, fish, frogs, snakes, small mammals, and birds.


Wilson DE, Ruff S: The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press; 1999.


Images provided below were obtained from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - North American Mammals. Available from
American mink
Credit: painting by Consie Powell from Kays and Wilson's Mammals of North America, © Princeton University Press (2002)
Credit: Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy — Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International — CABS, World Wildlife Fund — US, and Environment Canada — WILDSPACE.