Patient of the Week: American Mink’s Homecoming

By Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator

In early June, a good Samaritan showed up at our Wildlife Care Center with an orphaned baby American Mink! They had found the kit because they could hear her crying, and when they finally located her, she was all alone, tangled up in some brush near the Tualatin River in King City, Oregon.

The American Mink as a baby, curled up and sleeping.
The American Mink as a baby, curled up and sleeping.

Upon arrival at our Wildlife Care Center, she did not stop crying out for her mother until she was warmed up, in a soft faux den, and drinking our specialized formula for mustelids. Her eyes were still closed and she required feedings every few hours, but luckily she wasn’t injured in any way during the time she was outside of the den. Within weeks, her eyes had opened and she began figuring out solid food! She quickly weaned from her specialized formula, and her interest shifted to the pieces of meat and fish we were leaving in her enclosure–a great sign for this species!

As the American Mink kit got older, we moved her to a large outdoor enclosure so she could practice climbing, hiding, swimming, hunting, and other normal behaviors. We provided both terrestrial and aquatic live prey, so we could be sure she would know how and where to hunt in the wild. She proved to us fairly quickly that she was a ferocious and skilled predator; eventually catching mice within seconds of them entering her enclosure! As well as catching live fish from her large pool. Throughout this entire process, we had to be very careful to limit her exposure to people’s presence, sounds, and scents; like all other wild animals, it is crucial that mink grow up without becoming used to being around people (or worse, seeking them out).

The American Mink in her small pool, where she would regularly go to catch some fresh fish!

In early September, our ambassador animal coordinator, Nikki Panos, was able to release her back to her original habitat! After months in care, people often assume it would be hard to let our raised babies gobut for us, it’s the exact opposite. We were happy to see her free, how she was meant to be. Good luck out there, little one!

American Minks are semi-aquatic mammals that can be found throughout the state of Oregon, and most of North America. They require access to water in their habitat, either by a river, lake, pond, or marshy environment. They also prefer dense vegetation or rocky cover for camouflage and protection from their few natural predators; raptors, bobcats, foxes and coyotes. Once they are full-grown, minks are rarely hunted by other animals because they are rather sneaky, agile, and will defend themselves against large predators.

The American Mink exploring her large outdoor enclosure, sniffing the new leaves and logs that furnish her cage.

American Minks are aggressive carnivores themselves, preying on rodents and other small to medium sized mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, crustaceans, and fish. They forage along overhanging banks, and in holes and crevices. During the winter, they will sometimes catch more food than they need and stock up in their dens. Minks will dig their dens in the banks of rivers, lakes and streams, among tree roots, or even just find a hollow log or an abandoned beaver or muskrat den to take up residence in.

American Minks are in the same family as skunks, weasels, and other musky mammals. The “musk” is a strong-odorous secretion that they use for communication–marking their territorial boundaries and for finding mates. Their body is cylindrical but slender, long, and low to the ground. They have flattened heads, with small rounded ears, a pointed nose, yellow-green eyes, and a long, sturdy neck. Their fur is a dark chocolate brown, with a small patch of white fur on their chin, sometimes on their throat and chest too. Their fur is soft and thick, with oily outer guard hairs that add waterproofing. American Minks have short, stubby legs, and toes that are partially webbed. They are strong swimmers and climbers. Mink are about 2 feet in length, with a third to half of that just being their tail! Females are usually smaller than males, with both weighing around 2 to 3 pounds.

How You Can Help

The primary threat to American Minks is loss and degradation of their wetland habitat across the country. Protecting and restoring these sensitive habitats helps minks and a huge variety of other species of wildlife, but wetlands are also crucial to watershed management and climate resiliency, as they help manage runoff to prevent flooding and erosion, improve water quality, and store carbon in their abundant plant communities. Sign up for the Bird Alliance of Oregon activist list for opportunities to protect wetlands.

Historically, and even today, American Mink are also hunted and farmed for their fur. Fur trades have long had implications for wild populations, particularly the colonial European fur trade, which decimated populations of fur bearing animals here in North America. While farms have largely taken the place of wild harvesting for some species, disproportionate and unsustainable demand for fur for commercial industries continues to be a significant driving factor in population declines worldwide, particularly impacting already imperiled populations. In addition to the humane considerations, utilizing fur in commercial fashion perpetuates colonial valuation and desire for these products. You can help combat this problem by foregoing furs entirely, or opting for faux fur alternatives!  It’s important to note that Indigenous cultural uses and valuation of furs is separate from the colonial uses and monetary valuation of furs. 

What to Do If You Find an Injured, Ill, or Orphaned Animal

The best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. Do not offer food or water.

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our wildlife solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation.


We’re building a new Wildlife Care Center and need your help! If you would like to help injured and orphaned wildlife, please consider joining our crowdfunding campaign and making a gift to make this new facility a reality. We’re doubling the square footage, adding a surgical suite, and making many more important changes to provide the best care for our patients. Learn more at ForPortlandBird Alliance of

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your support helps us save lives.