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 .
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 . 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 . The Salish added mink to soups and stews to which wild vegetable or dried seaweed was added for flavoring . The Mistissini Cree hung mink bones in trees and saved the scent glands for trapping other animals .
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.
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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.
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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.
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15. Labrador Inuit Association: Our Footprints Are Everywhere: Inuit Land Use and Occupancy in Labrador. Nain: Labrador Inuit Association; 1977.
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17. Birket-Smith K, DeLaguna F. In: The Eyak Indians of the Copper River Delta, Alaska. edn. Kobenhavn: Levin & Munksgaard; 1938.
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26. Columbia GoB: Vol 3: Interior Salish. Victoria: British Columbia Department of Education; 1966.
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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.