An Odd Nighttime Visitor in the Backyard – An American Mink!

American Mink in Smiths Cove
An American mink in the backyard scares the “heck” out of all of us at twilight one night in June 2014.

I was still in the store working on a freelance editing project at about 10 PM one clear June night (the sun had just set– it was basically the longest day of 2014), when the still silence was broken by a loud shrill sound that was enough to sever my concentration. There was no doubt that it was the scream of a distressed animal. My thoughts went immediately to our adult cats. Mercifully, kittens Munchkin and Sweet Pea were safely inside (they had been out on the deck enjoying the rays most of the afternoon).

It sounded like a weird one-sided cat fight!

Ian, who was watching TV in the camper, heard it, too (they probably heard it over in Digby – it was that loud). We both rushed out to the backyard to find our fearless cats scurrying. The dogs, other than Teddy who was still tied up in the back, were nowhere to be found.

Ian and I bravely made our way over to the source of the relentless shrieking, expecting to find one of our cats — or one of the neighbourhood’s many feral cats — in a major state of injury or distress, Instead we spotted a long slender black critter (obviously a close relation to a weasel) popping its head in and out of a large cluster of green foliage.

The yard was filled with a strange musty odour.

Ian told me to stay back from the possibly rabid animal then ran in to grab his camera. Ian is an amateur photograph and can’t resist getting a shot or two of wildlife. He managed to take a couple of good shots of the still screeching creature.

I really do like animals, but this one I named “The Critter From Hell”.

Ian thought it might be a fischer, a dreaded animal where we had lived in Ontario, as they were known to kill household cats. It didn’t look quite like a fischer, though.

I finally settled on a mink. And I was right! When we compared our photos to the ones on the Internet, the creature exactly matched those of the black American mink.

After quickly checking some info re: minks on the Internet, Ian and I ran out to the workshop. Our budgies, cockatiels and lovebirds were in the loft. Apparently minks, being carnivorous, like to eat birds as well as a variety of other small mammals and fish. The odour in the workshop could have knocked us over. No doubt about it, he had been in there. He had obviously taken advantage of the hole Ian had made for our cats. Likely one of our cats had spooked him back out.

He was still in our yard when we went to bed that night, but we haven’t seen any sign of him since. Ian did hear him the other night, luckily some distance off, letting out that same mournful shriek.

Mink are semiaquatic animals so my hypothesis is that he came out of the stream beside our property and made his way up to the workshop, slinked through the cat hole and was spooked out again by one of our cats, releasing a putrid odour. The cat then chased him into the foliage, from which he let loose with that horrible screeching, scaring the cat completely away — along with our other cats and three dogs!

Mink farms are common in Nova Scotia. We will never know if he is a wild mink, an escaped mink, or possibly one that was intentionally released into the wild. Whatever the case, we wish him success in finding a safe home — away from our property!



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