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What Do Minks Eat in the Wild and as Pets?

Nicole Cosgrove

Minks are exotic pets that are closely related to ferrets. They were originally domesticated as pets from being part of fur farming facilities. In recent years, many seasoned exotic pet keepers have been keeping minks in captivity as household pets.

A common issue with keeping minks as pets is that they have specific dietary needs that need to be replicated when they are kept as pets. It is difficult to find the right foods for them as most pet stores do not sell supplies or foods formulated for minks due to their rarity as a common pet. Choosing the right diet for your pet mink is important for their health and vitality. This article will inform you of everything you need to know regarding feeding your pet mink.

divider-ferretKeeping Minks as Pets (Wildlife Regulations & Permits)

Important: If you want to own a pet mink, you must ensure it is permitted to do so in your region. Most wildlife conservation centers have restrictions on keeping minks as pets. It is illegal to own a mink as a pet in most states. A general house check will most likely be conducted by a wildlife specialist to ensure that you have all the requirements for your mink and the right enclosure layout. You may then apply for a permit which you will then receive once you have been deemed responsible enough to own one. Always ensure the mink have been captive bred and not captured from the wild.

If you plan to import a captive-bred mink from a different state, then you must ensure both parties have the correct permits for exotic mink exporting and ownership.

European Mink
Image Credit: Abujoy, Wikimedia commons

Different Types of Minks and Their Natural Diet

Both the European and American mink are kept as exotic pets. Although these are two different species occurring in different natural habitats, their diets are quite similar. Both the European and American mink are carnivorous and semi-aquatic which means that they require a body of water to hunt for most of their food. One of the main differences in the two species diet is that the European mink will eat a higher percentage of fibrous plant foods, whereas the American mink will consume little plants when live foods are scarce.

The Dietary Requirements of Minks

Minks are obligated carnivores that feast on various meat-based proteins in the form of small rodents, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. Minks require a varied diet that is rich in different types of live or freeze-dried creatures. Commercial foods rarely cover all your pet minks’ dietary requirements, and you will need to get access to their appropriate food. In the wild, minks will keep their preys’ leftovers in the den to continue eating them throughout the next few days. They will hunt for their next prey once the leftovers are no longer viable to eat.

When we analyze the specifics of a mink’s diet, we need to consider the nutrients that their wild diet includes. Meat fills up the main aspect of their diet, with other natural foods making up a small percentage. Some European minks will also eat vegetations found in their natural ecosystem during the hotter months. In winter, all minks will consume high amounts of live foods that they catch in rivers or within the preys’ burrows.

The diet should be rich in protein and low in carbohydrates to ensure optimal health.

What Do Minks Eat in the Wild?

In the wild minks will choose a territory that has many available food sources. They will then create their den in the area where they will primarily hunt. Their wild diet is simple and mostly contains the following foods:

  • Frogs
  • Waterfowl
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Chipmunks
  • Fish
  • Snakes
  • Muskrats
  • Crayfish
  • Voles
  • Salamanders

Snakes from a part of their diet; however, it has been observed that most minks will catch and kill snakes but not eat them. They may also drag the snake into their den where they will leave the snakes carcass with the rest of their leftovers.

Minks will primarily hunt in rivers or streams and are good at swiftly hunting their prey. Aquatic life becomes more prominent in their diet during winter when land animals have typically taken to hibernating in sealed burrows or caves.

Their main hunting strategy is getting behind their prey to deliver a swift bite to its neck which is a quick and painless death for their unsuspecting prey. Some animals like rats and waterfowl are too large for them to consume in one meal and they will drag the remains to their den alongside the riverbank.

What to Feed Minks in Captivity?

Understanding how to feed your pet mink in captivity can be expensive and it is important to note that most of their natural food sources are not available on the commercial market and you will have to improvise by finding foods that contain the same nutrients that they will receive from their natural diet.

In captivity, you can feed them foods made for cats or ferrets. Most ferret foods will contain similar nutrients that both species can benefit from because they are so closely related. It is essential to only feed pet minks high-quality ferret or cat foods. If you decide to feed your mink cat food as its main commercial diet, then wet foods are best. Cat pellets are typically low quality and lack the right amount of protein that your pet mink requires.

Aside from commercial foods, you should also supplement your minks’ diet with feeder fish from the pet store, frogs, and live mice or rats. Most pet stores will stock these foods for reptiles like snakes.

Minks are not suitable pets for those who struggle to feed live foods to pets. Minks should be fed a live creature at least 3 times a week alongside their high-quality commercial food. Your mink will also enjoy catching its live prey which can be placed in their water or let loose in their enclosure to promote hunting which in return will fulfill your mink’s enrichment needs.

Here is a breakdown of the main foods your mink should be fed in captivity:

divider-ferretConclusion

There are a variety of food options that you can feed your pet mink. If you provide them with the right types of food your mink will benefit by having a strong immune system, proper growth and development, and a shiny coat. Out of all the commercial foods, minks can eat, cat and dog foods are the most recommended option along with frogs, feeder fish, and rodents, or chunks of bird meat as a staple diet.

Once you have completed a good diet ratio of food for your mink, you will be rewarded for their overall health and beauty.


Featured Image Credit: Gallinago_media, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.