124 Mountain Brook Mink
PUTORIUS NIGRESCENS.--AUD. and BACH. [Mustela vison] MOUNTAIN-BROOK MINK. [Mink] PLATE CXXIV.--MALE. P. Saturate fuscus, corpora minore quam in P. Visone, pedibus minus profunde palmatis, auriculis amplioribus et longioribus, vellere molliore et nitidiore quam in isto, dentibus longioribus in maxilla inferiore quam in superiore.
CHARACTERS. Smaller than P. Vison; teeth in the under jaw larger than the corresponding teeth in the upper jaw; feet, less deeply palmated than in P. Vison; ears, broader and longer; fur, softer and more glossy. Colour, dark brownish-black. SYNONYME. MOUNTAIN-MINK, of hunters. DESCRIPTION. In form, in dentition, and in the shape of the feet, this species bears a strong resemblance to a stout weasel; the head is broad and depressed, and shorter and more blunt than the head of Putorius Vison. Ears, large, oval, and slightly acute, covered on both surfaces with short fur; legs, rather short and stout; feet, small, and less webbed than in P. Vison. The callosities under the toes are more prominent than in that species, and the palms scarcely half as long. Whiskers, very numerous, springing from the sides of the face near the nose; the body is covered with two kinds of hair, the under fur soft, and the long sparsely distributed hairs, coarse but smooth and glossy. The toes are covered with short hairs almost concealing the nails, and the hairs between the toes leave only the tubercles or callosities on the under side of them visible. COLOUR. Fur, blackish-brown from the roots to the tips; whiskers and ears, blackish-brown; a patch on the chin, white; under surface of body, a shade lighter and redder than on the back; tail, blackish-brown, except towards the tip, where it is black. DIMENSIONS. Inches. Lines. Length of head and body,. . . . . . . . 11 0 Length of tail (to end of hair), . . . . . 7 0 Length of (vertebrae), . . . . . . . . 6 0 Length of palms of fore feet, . . . . . . 1 2 From tarsus to end of nail on hind foot, . . 2 2 Height of ear externally, . . . . . . . 0 6 For convenient comparison we add the measurements of three common minks (P. Vison) killed in Carolina. One was very old and his teeth were much worn; the other two were about eight months. P. Vison, three specimens. Inches. Inches. Inches. Lengths of body and head, respectively,. . 20 17 19 Lengths of tail, . . . . . . . . . 8 6 7 Lengths of palms of fore feet,. . . . . 2 Lengths of tarsus to longest nail, . . . 3 HABITS. We were familiar with the manners and ways of this smaller Mink in early life, and have frequently caught it in traps on the banks of a brook to which we resorted for the purpose of angling, and which in those days actually abounded with trout, as well as with suckers and perch. On this sparkling stream, where we passed many an hour, the little black Mink was the only species we observed. We found a nest of the animal under the roots of a large tree, where the young were brought forth, and we frequently noticed the old ones with fish in their mouths. This species swim and dive swiftly and with apparent ease, but we most generally saw them on the ground, hunting as they stole along the winding banks of the stream, and following it high up into the hills towards its very source. We remember seeing the young in the nest on two occasions; in each case the nest contained four. In early spring we have traced this species of Mink into the meadows, where it had been busily engaged in capturing the common meadow-mouse (A. Pennsylvanica), whilst the snow was yet on the ground. Having one day detected one of these little Minks in an outhouse, closing the door immediately we captured it without its making any attempt either to get away or to defend itself. The frightened little marauder was probably conscious that it was in a prison from which there was no possible chance of escape. The large species (P. Vison) appears to be more plentiful than the Mountain-brook Mink, and is found about mill-ponds and large rivers quite as frequently as on the borders of small streams. The Mountain-brook Mink is quite as destructive to young poultry and to all the tenants of the farm-yard, when it happens to approach the precincts in which they may be thought to be safely ranging, as the larger species, or even the weasel. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. We have observed this species in the mountains of the State of Pennsylvania, as well as in the northern part of the State of New York, in Vermont, and in Canada, but have not met with nor heard of it in Virginia or any of the Southern States, and consequently are inclined to regard it as a northern species. It was not seen by us on the Missouri river, although it probably exists some distance to the west, in the latitude of the great lakes. GENERAL REMARKS. In our article on the common Mink (Putorius Vison, vol. i. p. 252) we referred to this smaller animal, but could not then find characters sufficient to separate the species. Since that time, however, we have had abundant opportunities of comparing many specimens. We have seen some with their teeth much worn, and females which from the appearance of the teats had evidently suckled their young. They were all of the size and colour of the specimen above described, and we can no longer doubt that the latter is a distinct species from P. Vison. The comparison in fact is not required to be made between these species, but between the present species and P. lutreola of Europe. We enjoyed opportunities of comparing P. Vison (the common and well known Mink) with the latter species in the museums of Berlin, Dresden, and London; but we had no opportunity of placing this little species by the side of the European. We are inclined to believe, however, that the distinctive marks will be found in the small rounded feet and short tarsus of our present species, in its longer and rather more pointed ears, its shorter head, and longer lower incisors, together with a more general resemblance to our common weasel (P. erminea) in summer pelage.