Photo © Ian Coristine/
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New Neighbors

Change is constant in our world, and certainly in our region. While the focus in the Thousand Islands, more often than not, takes on the world of nature, it is exciting when the change involves animals making their way through the camp. Usually the deer, wild turkey, chipmunks, and the waddling porcupine are the primary guests, this year has brought another animal that I had not seen in all my years here.

Mink by Coristine © 2009
An island Mink (Mustela vison). Photo by Ian Coristine ©

Early this summer, I was enjoying a beverage off the deck when I looked out at the dock and noticed a mink wallowing in some of the “gifts of the goose”. My only previous encounter with something that looked like that was another weasel like creature from my younger days…the pet ferret/fraternity mascot of one of my college chums. The mink noticed me, but went about his business in the “business” for a few minutes before diving back in the river. I was very excited to see a new river critter, one has been here for a very long time; just not seen from this writer.

As the summer progressed, I realized that this sighting was not a novelty. Two weeks later, I saw a female moving quickly along our shoreline with a small fish and scurried into what looked like a nest entrance. That same weekend we saw another one eating a fish on the shoreline both at the camp and off Hemlock Island. As the summer has progressed, I have seen eight sightings altogether. Is this a population explosion or just good fortune to see them?

Since the mink have decided to make a home nearby, I might as well get know my new neighbors.  How to spot them? After a little research, here are some of the constants: American mink are medium to dark brown (the ones I have seen here are chocolate brown) often with white spots along the belly. The fur is dense, glossy (shiny coat), and water repellant. They have a long body with short legs. The tail looks somewhat bushy. The feet are webbed and the toes end with small and sharp claws. They have long whiskers, small rounded eyes (beady black), and little fuzzy ears. Males generally weigh 2 to 3.5 pounds and are about 2 feet long. Females are about 20 percent smaller in size and weight. They primarily feed on small mammals, birds, frogs, crayfish, eggs, fish, snakes and insects. They would be Webster’s definition of a true carnivore. Apparently, they make their dens out abandoned ones, which in our case at the camp seem to be old chipmunk holes.

Island mink by Coristine © 2009
Mink or Rock ?  Photo by Ian Coristine ©

Not surprisingly, mink are mostly aquatic creatures and are excellent swimmers. Most of them are solitary and very territorial. They have few natural predators, but are considered meals by fox, coyote, and owls. Breeding season is typically from the beginning of the year and until April. The gestational period varies, but is usually between 30 to 80 days. Litter sizes also very greatly, anywhere between two to ten per litter (usually 4-5 per litter…one litter per year).

To my new neighbors, welcome!

By James Rappaport

James is a regular contributor to TI Life.  He is a strategic management consultant for publishing, radio, and cable television ventures as well as contributing writer for several media outlets.   He began his writing at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where he was a feature writer as well as a managing editor for the Hill News. His work has also been featured in various news outlets, including the Stamford (CT) Advocate and The New York Observer. Jim is a resident of Indian Point in the Town of Hammond and northwest Connecticut.

Posted in: Nature
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Mac McKellar
Comment by: Mac McKellar ( )
Left at: 8:54 AM Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We live on an inland lake and have a pair of these critters that have raised two to four young each year over the past 4 summers. I watched them work hard at finding two young rabbits one day that were living in a brush pile. I've also watched her catch fish in the winter time and has a 4 out 5 average from under the ice. An interesting little animal to watch as they don't seem to have a lot of fear of humans.
Sue and Mark Saiter
Comment by: Sue and Mark Saiter ( )
Left at: 10:18 AM Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We are on Manitouana Island and have had mink on our island for the last 3 to 4 summers. Last summer one came up on our porch when my husband and I were sitting on it and just walked around and left. We see them when we are down sitting on the dock and they are coming from the neightbors island and over to ours. Sometimes they have a fish in their mouth. They tend to stay mostly around the shore and docks.
Enjoyed learning more about their lifestyle. Thank you for sharing this.
John McCullough
Comment by: John McCullough ( )
Left at: 5:40 PM Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We started seeing mink about 4 years ago at Cuba Island. They seem to come and go, not around last year, back this year.

I also spotted an otter a month ago, who appeared to swim right into the middle of the island, which seems to contain various passages despite its solid appearance. I would guess we see otters maybe once every 5 years. Muskrats and beaver populations also wax and wane, but overall, animal populations seem to be on the rise. No as many trappers around these days
Mac McKellar
Comment by: Mac McKellar ( )
Left at: 11:12 PM Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thanks to all of your that are sharing tid bits of info. I also had eight deer on my deck last winter trying to eat the bird seeds and 14 in the yard waiting their turn. They visited every night and the bushes and flowers took a beating last winter as did the deer in my area.
Sue March
Comment by: Sue March ( )
Left at: 5:29 PM Thursday, September 17, 2009
We have had mink at Papoose Island for several years now-a very small island at the head of Grindstone. While they are interesting to watch, unfortunately one moved into our boathouse and created a disgusting, foul mess. We have tried several times over the years to convince the mink that they don't want to live in the boathouse, but so far with no success. I see several through the summer on the surrounding islands, quite bold, active during the day, and seemingly iincreasing in population from discussions with neighbors.
Mac McKellar
Comment by: Mac McKellar ( )
Left at: 10:43 PM Thursday, September 17, 2009
With the amount of young that have been raised along our dock and the neighbors, I have wondered where they go. Parents must send them on their way to find their own beach front. I saw two fighting early this summer. Must be a territorial thing with them as one appeared to be driving off another.
Mac McKellar
Comment by: Mac McKellar ( )
Left at: 10:51 PM Thursday, September 17, 2009
One thing that comes to mind is moth balls. We put them in our boats to keep the Red Squirrels from storing pine cones in them and from doing damage to cushions, etc. Maybe it will work for your boat house.
Dan Spencer
Comment by: Dan Spencer ( )
Left at: 3:17 PM Friday, September 18, 2009
We have had mink along our shore (on the main land) for a number of years. We also have a fox family and as far as I can determine only one mink has been caught by a fox. When I ice fish I leave fish parts on the ice for the mink. On one occasion a pair of foxes were seen eating the remains. I have been unsuccessful in getting a good picture of the mink but have some of the fox.
Sue and Mark Saiter
Comment by: Sue and Mark Saiter ( )
Left at: 11:04 AM Saturday, September 19, 2009
Mac, It wan't us that had the problem with the mink in the boathouse but I like the mothball idea in the boats for winter storage, I assume, to keep the animals out!! Thanks for the tip-- Sue Saiter, Manitouana 1
Sue March
Comment by: Sue March ( )
Left at: 8:36 PM Monday, September 21, 2009
Mac-thanks for the mothball idea-unfortunately we already tried that and it did not work. We have learned to store the kayaks hanging upside down, and put away anything that we don't want mink poop or fish remains on-but it's still all over, even in the boats, and stinks. We tried covering things-they crawl through the smallest holes. My dog has not been able to discourage them either-but there have been some loud arguments-luckily the dog was not injured.
I'm reconciled to the filth at this point-but my daughter sure wasn't happy when she opened the bag of flippers and a furry creature ran out!
Mac McKellar
Comment by: Mac McKellar ( )
Left at: 8:17 PM Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Sorry to hear the mothballs didn't work for you. As I haven't had problems with the mink in my boats as I did have with Red Squirrels, the mothballs did work on them. If I hear of any idea's I'll pass them along. They are like a skunk with their little scent glands and yes, they do stink. Have a good day.
Comment by: Howard ( )
Left at: 2:41 PM Wednesday, September 23, 2009
We had a big problem with them last year messing in year boats. Nearly ruined the carpets. We had to pulll a smalll boart and spend several days cleaning. The also got under our deck and seem to always leave the fish heads to rot. It made it very unpleasant to go on the decks. While we are happy to have all the animals, minks are definately not our favorite. We used moth ballls in the boats and kept them uncovered, which wasm't the greatest thing for our 60 Lyman, but it did seem to keep the minks away. However, our boat rides now smelll of moth ballls. We also tried scented sprays. Apparently the minks have a very strong sense of smelll. We aslo have dogs, but the minks do not seem to mind them. They have no fear of people and I worry a little when the grandchildren viisit.
Robert Parker
Comment by: Robert Parker ( )
Left at: 11:31 AM Sunday, October 4, 2009
We live on Tar Island, just east of Rockport.
We have had numerous mink on the island this year. They have done incredible damage to boats and boat houses.
Last year a mink made a next under our house. The stench was overpowering. The solution to get rid of it was to use full strength amonia and a garden sprayer to spray the nest area. Others have had to use amonia soaked rags iin their boats to deter the mink from using the boat to eat what it had cought and foul carpets, etc.
Seems to work.

Jay Siegel
Comment by: Jay Siegel ( )
Left at: 12:26 PM Tuesday, October 6, 2009
We have a cottage in Ivy Lea, between Swiftwater Point and Smuggler's Cove. We have had mink on our dock for the past several years. Occassionally they get into the boathouse (usually over the winter) and poop on the floor; a nasty mess to clean up, and quite a smell.
They have little fear of humans. They have nibbled at our feet while on our swim ladder; eaten fish that we've caught off a holding line in the water; and run between our legs on the dock.
No one seems to have a solution as to how to get rid of them. I tried a Hav-a-Heart trap, but caught only the neighbor's cat and a very angry raccoon.
Brian Berghuis
Comment by: Brian Berghuis ( )
Left at: 5:37 PM Saturday, October 10, 2009
A family of mink arrived at our cottage near Brockville several summers ago. At first, we were are riveted by their novelty, and by their fearlessness in our presence.

Over that winter, however, the mink discovered that our boathouse was more to their liking than their natural environment; ever since, it has been a battle to keep our boathouse free from their droppings. We have tried moth balls without success. We also captured one in a have-a-heart trap, and delivered it ten miles from its wailing mate. I subsequently learned that mink have superior homing instincts and can return to their habitat by traveling up to twenty miles in a single night.

Like Sue, if anyone has a mink solution, we would be very appreciative!

Jack Patterson
Comment by: Jack Patterson
Left at: 9:18 AM Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Also many Minks on Axeman and have been around for three, four years. Do make a mess. Have no remedy but NOTHING could be as bad as the Beaver! Stayed and stayed and stayed in our boathouse dragging lumber in and cutting trees all over. Ate easily thru floor decking. Some mysteriously to me are all gone which, ' all ' I had been told would never happen as they always return to where born. BUT are gone. Have you actually heard a Beaver ' slap ' the water? Sounds more like someone took a rock out of a pier - a BIG one and heaved it from over their head into the river. Much more than a slap! I have wondered if Minks, Fishers (?) spook / trump Beavers? Have not seen Otter in many, many years and was surprised when we did see them. We are well out from shore. I also worried a little about the Mink with the many small children using a little beach we have. There have been no incidents but I am on heightened alert when (both) are around. Yes, they don’t seem to fear people. I spoke with the Hydro men last summer and one of them had extracted a Fisher from a Can. Hydro transformer a winter ago on an island - might have been Troughton, upriver from us and my brother says he has seen them. I haven’t and such would be a more serious sighting as Fishers can be fierce and are many times larger than the Mink although they look much alike. Tend to be deep forest animals also. The biggest 'animal ' news ' I ever heard on the river was Barbara having a Cougar living on her island just down below Stave ; Barbara I can ' t think of your last name nor your island ( Barbara of the Summer Residents Association - Former President ! ) . Wonderful they come back of the Bald Eagle and the sustaining Loon!
Rosi M
Comment by: Rosi M
Left at: 10:38 PM Friday, April 9, 2010
Have just discovered that a mink has been living in our sailboat for at least a month. WHAT A MESS and new meaning to the word stink. It managed to drag a pretty good sized fish and a medium sized bird of some sort inside and ripped them apart and crap & urine everywhere. I have cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned - still there is much odour. I am going to try a strong solution of something nuclear tomorrow. What does seem to be working to keep it off the boat, is several rags laced with loads of cayenne in any possible entry point. I use this to keep cats (etc) out of my garden. You do have to keep re-applying though. Now if I can just get rid of the smell. I don't approve of killing animals for their fur but if this guy gets on my boat again, my little dog is getting a mink coat for Christmas
Mary Sprague
Comment by: Mary Sprague ( )
Left at: 12:16 AM Thursday, September 15, 2011
After cleaning out the stinking kayak (stored upside down: s/he dug a hole up front), we rubbed it down with vinegar. That actually took most of the Mink stink away. I think a nice coat would be swell.
Pam Frost
Comment by: Pam Frost ( )
Left at: 8:12 AM Sunday, June 30, 2013
I have cottaged just west of Brockville for 65 years and it is only recently (8 years, maybe) that mink have been around this area. I have cleaned up after them several times, stuffed wire wool in every little hole and caulked it in place but to no avail. Part of our dock has been built over an old cement dock and the mink use the space between the two-by-fours as a naturally protected highway and roadside diner. The smell this month is unbearable so we are now in the process of ripping up every fourth board to clean up all the nasty little fish heads - fun, fun, fun. But what to do to keep them away??? My neighbour keeps a radio playing in his boathouse all year long and it works! However, I'm not sure how to get a radio to play under our dock .... and we'd hear it from our bedroom ....
Sue March
Comment by: Sue March ( )
Left at: 9:27 PM Sunday, June 30, 2013
I just reread these and see we were having a very frustrating mink year at Papoose a couple years back.

For some unknown reason, the mink have not appeared this spring. I'm not sure why we are so fortunate, but the cleaned out boathouse has stayed clean, the dog is not finding "delicacies" to roll in and eat, and we can only hope they found a better location on Grindstone in a wild area!
Sara Copestake
Comment by: Sara Copestake
Left at: 3:23 PM Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Mink in the boathouse in Portland,Ontario....tried cloves,mothballs,ammonia soaked diapers( they pooped on the diapers!)any other ideas???