MINK, a name for certain large species of the genus Putorius (Polecat), distinguished by slight structural modifications con nected with their semi-aquatic habits. The two best-known species, P. lutreola, of eastern Europe, and P. visor, the mink of North America are very similar. The former inhabits Finland, Poland and the greater part of Russia, west of the Ural Mountains. The latter is found throughout North America. Arkother form, P. sibiricus, from eastern Asia, connects the true minks with the polecats.
In size the mink resembles the English polecat—the length of the head and body being usually from 15 to i8in., that of the tail about gin. The female is smaller than the male. The tail is bushy, but tapering at the end. The ears are rounded, and scarcely project beyond the fur. The pelage consists of a dense, soft, matted underfur, mixed with long, stiff, lustrous hairs. The
gloss is greatest on the upper parts ; on the tail the bristly hairs predominate. Northern specimens have the finest pelage. In colour the animal is ordinarily of a rich dark brown, with the back usually the darker and the tail nearly black. There is some white on the jaws, and often irregular white patches on the under parts. The fur is important in commerce.
The principal characteristic of the mink is its amphibious mode of life. It is to the water what the other weasels are to the land, or martens to the trees. It swims and dives with ease. It makes its nest in burrows in the banks of streams, producing five or six young once a year about April. Its food is very varied comprising crustacea, molluscs and members of all the vertebrate classes. It has a very disagreeable smell. (See CARNIVORA.)