Mayslake Mink

by Carl Strang

Last week at Mayslake Forest Preserve I was happy to find the first mink tracks of the season.

The size and arrangement, as well as the location of these tracks, point to mink. The ice had melted and refrozen so as to distort the individual footprints.

Last winter I saw signs of that species only once or twice, a big letdown because two winters ago there were indications that two individuals were hunting the preserve regularly. I first saw the string of tracks pointed north as the animal ran along the east edge of May’s Lake.

Here the spacing, size and pattern of the mink’s trail are clear. No other species would fit.

As I was on my lunch break walk I couldn’t take the time to follow the mink’s entire route. Later I intercepted it again where it was following the little stream (May’s Lake’s outlet) near the bridge.

Here the tracks are on the slope above the west bank of the stream. As you can see, even at mid-day they are not being hit very hard by the sun. Therefore, despite being only a few hours at most older than the above tracks, they are less distorted by melting.

Given the animal’s trajectory, I decided to see if it checked out the parking lot marsh. Sure enough, it had weaseled its way through the cattails.

Here the mink is moving toward our point of view.

I estimated that these tracks were made the third night previous to my finding them, given the weather conditions during that time period and the deterioration of the footprints. There was nothing fresher, and I suspect that this mink made a single south to north passage through the preserve and exited. Time will tell if this animal is a regular visitor.

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