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Trio of American Mink Orphans Learn Social, Survival Skills

Cape Wildlife Center rehabs orphaned kits

  • For the first month, the Cape Wildlife Center staff carefully monitored and hand fed the fragile infant minks. Cindy Hopf

  • The orphaned baby minks would have surely perished if not rescued by a kind passerby. Cindy Hopf

  • As they grew older, the minks moved to a larger habitat box with nest boxes. Cindy Hopf

  • Now healthy and robust, the juvenile minks will be ready for release in the fall. Cindy Hopf

by Deborah Millman

In early June, a Massachusetts Audubon Society staff member came to Cape Wildlife Center bearing a small box. Inside were three infant mink orphans, each weighing less than seven ounces. The woman's neighbor had seen the minks' mother hit by a car, then heard the frightened orphans crying nearby.

The small creatures were covered with fleas but otherwise healthy, although they could not yet fend for themselves. CWC staff and volunteers provided flea treatment and deworming, then placed the little animals inside a quiet, dark crate, where they were kept warm and fed until they were old enough to be moved.

Orphaned? Injured? How to tell if a wild animal needs your help.

About a month later, the minks were ready to be moved into an outdoor habitat specially designed for them, with tubes to run through, boxes to sleep in, and places to hide. They are being fed healthy diets and medically monitored until they are able to fend for themselves in the wild.

Typically born in the spring, as this trio was, minks are weaned at about six weeks old but stay with their mothers through the fall, until they are large enough and capable enough to live on their own.

Returning strong and capable animals to the wild 

"Just because an animal is eating on its own doesn't mean it is ready to be returned to the wild," explained CWC veterinarian Dr. Roberto Aguilar. "Minks are social creatures that need to learn from their mothers or, in the case of our three minks, by observing each other, before they are ready to fend for themselves. We take species-specific factors into account when determining how soon to release any animal in our care. In these minks' case, they will be with us for at least four months."

Once they are ready, the minks will be returned to a secure area close to where they were found. There, they will establish a territory and do their part to perpetuate this native and essential species.

"The wildlife released from our care must be able to both survive in the wild and be healthy and strong enough to continue the species by breeding healthy infants," noted CWC's director of wildlife rehabilitation, Lynn Miller. "That is true rehabilitation: fostering wildlife survival by returning strong and capable animals to the wild."

» Learn more about minks and about the fur trade.
» Learn more about the Cape Wildlife Center and support its mission.

Deborah Millman is director of the Cape Wildlife Center, operated by The HSUS in partnership with The Fund for Animals.

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