Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Midwestern mink sighting--ghost of Mumday


This lovely creature was, unfortunately, having a rough day (no golf pun intended, esp. since it's on the green) which nevertheless allowed me to take it's picture. A recent blog entry I read yesterday talks about what I think this species MAY be (it was really big), but the red tail is throwing me off.

The first shot of trees, living on the rise above a pond, is the intro to the habitat wherein I experienced the wildlife viewing moment of the day/week/month.

that's our little cart

Just along the bank on the right is where we saw it, and it galloped up and (I presume 'cause it disappeared) into the culvert, at the dark spot under the steak on the right. Of COURSE I did not have my camera, but according to a philosophical friend of mine, that's probably why we got to see it.  =)

From the checklist of North Dakota Mammals, courtesy of USGS:

Order Carnivora
  Family Canidae
    Canis Latrans                    Coyote                          All
    Canis Lupus                      Gray Wolf                       NE
    Vulpes vulpes                    Red Fox                         E,NW
    Vulpes velox                     Swift Fox                       SW
    Urocyon cinereoargenteus         Gray Fox                        E
  Family Ursidae
    Ursus americanus                 Black Bear                      NE
  Family Procyonidae
    Procyon lotor                    Raccoon                         All
  Family Mustelidae
    Martes pennanti                  Fisher                          NE
    Mustela erminea                  Ermine                          E
    Mustela nivalis                  Least Weasel                    All
    Mustela frenata                  Long-tailed Weasel              All
    Mustela nigripes                 Black-footed Ferret             SW
    Mustela vison                    Mink                            All
    Taxidea taxus                    Badger                          All
    Spilogale putorius               Eastern Spotted Skunk           SE
    Mephitis mephitis                Striped Skunk                   All
    Lutra canadensis                 River Otter                     All
  Family Felidae
    Felis concolor                   Mountain Lion                   N,W
    Felis lynx                       Lynx                            N
    Felis rufus                      Bobcat                          All

Trying to ferret out (pardon) what that mysterious weasel/mink-like creature I saw at the pondy-hole, the above list makes me think it was a mink, per the guess of the local we were with.

He, the local, is a hunter (and golfer), and quite a good naturalist. I learned years ago that to ensure they are shooting the right species of duck, hunters have to be able to identify (quickly!) a duck species in flight. Hence rockin' naturalist skills. Plus, he grew up there and is generally a smarty.

American mink, therefore, is my formal conclusion, Mustela vison.

Original photo uploader was Mwanner at en.wikipedia

It was dark, dark brown, very slender, had that distinctive I've-gotta-very-long-body-and-short-legs undulating gallop, and swam like nobody's business. I expect it disappeared into that culvert, which inspired my pretty lame one-day-later shot into the culvert JUST IN CASE this notoriously energetic, roaming creature happened to be there again. Doesn't look like it, tho' I did miss the right side...

According to Wiki it's a semi-aquatic carnivore and loves to dine on water borne species like fish and crayfish. SO exciting for me--I've NEVER seen one in the "wild" and funny that I should see it here, on the golf green.

Also, apparently mink were compared to skunk and ferrets and cats re: intelligence based upon their respective abilities to recognize/memorize shapes and minks were the top of the class: "Mink were in fact found to be more intelligent than certain groups of primates." Wow!

The golf course straddles to a pretty fat and long riparian corridor which runs between two towns. There are scattered woodlands there, and some unmown stretches of grassland, too, so despite the (presumed abundant) presence of herbicides, etc., there's some pretty nice habitat here and there.

There's a LOT of water in the midwest, and apparently they had a pretty wet spring. My ankle was sore for three days after being bitten like mad during my first (and last) outdoor dining experience. Happily, though, the winds picked up and the mosquitoes went back to harbor.

Before we invaded their space, these Canada geese (Branta canadensis) perfectly filled out the shade from the tree. Sweet.

 Wisely not trusting the wingless bipeds, they marched (typo was marshed!) pond-ward.

We have relatives who have a Boston terrier (an EXTRA tiny one), and Canada geese frequent their backyard.

 (photo courtesy of http://www.iwannapet.com/Boston_Terrier.html)

Apparently they see the boston terrier, which has superficially similar coloring to the Canada goose, as a lost member of their flock. They are forever approaching that little guy, seemingly trying to get it back to the flock. Of course the geese TOWER over the dog.

They do NOT exhibit this behavior toward the other dog in the house or any other dogs in the neighborhood.

Again, sweet. =)

Really lame photo, but it's a green-backed heron. Really well named species, I must say. I NEVER get to see these guys.

A MUCH better photograph by Peter Wallack:

Beauty. Coincidentally (or not) this photograph was ALSO taken at a golf course. =)

Wiki calls them green herons.

Here is where I saw the following cool little fly--in different light, near its eyes is BRIGHT, light blue.

It was on this tree species--which I don't know off the top of my head (professional formative years re: plants was amid coastal sage scrub--no real trees there):

Ooh, I think it's common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica. Looking up cathartic (which I know as a kind of emotional breakthrough or release), I find that at least in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, this word describes things used to treat constipation! Woah.

I wonder if this shrub, should it be chewed, or the berries brewed (which I am NOT recommending) have that effect?

Ah, as ever, Wiki to the rescue: "The bark and fruit were used as a purgative in the past, though their potentially dangerous violent action and side effects means they are now rarely used.[8]"

Good GRIEF I love the internet.

K. Thus ends our tour through the wilds of a Midwestern Mumday. =)



  1. Good Morning Biobabbler, Nice photo with the tree reflecting in the pond. I have seen mink or weasels in my gardens and fields. I wish they would return to eat the rabbits. It is great that you are able to enjoy exploring nature while golfing. I do not think your photo with the Green Heron in it lame at all... the colors and movement in the water are great. I love it. I tend to buy carefully crafted herbal remedies rather than harvesting my own... just to be sure. ;>))

  2. How COOL re: mustelids [what you can call a mink/weasel that so you'll be a) accurate and b) sound smart while c) not really knowing exactly what it is! =) Ah, Latin] in your garden. Exciting!

    Yes, re: not making your own purgative. If it went awry and you were gravely ill, it'd be WAY too embarrassing a story to tell: "Well, I kind of poisoned myself..." =)

    Makes me think of "Into the Wild" (the movie) and "The Omnivore's Dilemma." It's not easy being an omnivore. =)


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