Mink are mainly nocturnal, emerging from their dens to feed at night on a diet of small animals including water vole, birds, frogs, molluscs, crabs, fish and insects (5). This range of prey, hunted in water, on land, in swamps and burrows is considerably greater than the range of more specialised mustelids like otters and weasels. This carries both costs and benefits, as a specialised hunter will be better adapted than a generalist at exploiting a certain prey, but a generalist, like the mink, has the advantage of being able to hunt different prey should one type become scarce (6). This mammal is a wanderer, occupying large home ranges (up to 15 km of river) and using rarely the same den. The female usually stays close to the den, unless a shortage of food drives it to find another location (2). They lead solitary lifestyles, except during the breeding season, from February to March (7), when they seek out mates using a repertoire of sounds from hisses and screams to chuckling calls. Males first seek out the females whose territories overlap their own, before searching further afield (6). Mating is often preceded by very aggressive encounters between the two sexes. The females' gestation period is between 5 – 10 weeks, the birth being in the spring when there is an abundance of food and shelter (2). The female will give birth to 2 – 7 young per litter and raises them alone in a den, suckling them for 5 – 6 weeks (4). Minks are born blind and helpless, and so depend on parental care until they are weaned at about 10 weeks, leaving the den after 12 – 18 weeks. They reach maturity after one year, and live for about 6 years in the wild and up to 12 years in captivity (2).
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