Meet the Florida Mink -- relative of the weasel family

The Florida mink is one of several furry, dark-colored, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals and actually are related to the members of the weasel family that includes ferrets, otters, martens and badgers. Minks are generally found throughout Canada and North America in lakes, rivers and marshes. The population of these animals has decreased in number over the past five decades, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

The reason for this is that their habitat has been degraded by development by humans, stream channelization and wetland drainage.

Courtesy photo. The Florida Mink is native to the Sunshine State and are related to weasels.

Mortality is very high in the early months of the life of an American mink. Those that survive the first year can live to three years in the wild. Farm raised mink and those in captivity live up to 10-12 years. They average four to five kits per litter once a year.

The mink lives in places that suit its habitat from the Arctic to Florida. Additionally there is a threatened species of mink endemic to the Florida everglades.

There are three distinct populations of minks in Florida. Two of these populations dwell and inhabit the salt marshes of the northern Atlantic coast south to Matanzas Inlet and of the Gulf coasts south to Hernando County.

The southern Florida population consists of the Everglades Mink - that is a threatened subspecies. It is currently believed that the Everglades mink is limited to the shallow freshwater marshes and long hydroperiod swamps of the Big Cypress swamp, the Fakahatchee Strand and the southern portions of the Everglades.

A hydroperiod swamp is the pattern of water – level fluctuation in a wetland and can be related to the nesting failure of by woodstorks in the Everglades. Further the population of the Everglades mink was historically a much greater area covering the northern Everglades and the Okeechobee region.

There is no current estimate of the size and density of the population of the Everglades mink which is suspected to be in part due to the wariness of the species.

It is felt that the development of a feasible, non-invasive survey method for use in the Everglades would help to establish mink distribution, habitat, and populations as well as assessing the Everglades Restoration projects on the species.

The long slim body of the mink is covered in glossy thick dark brown or black fur with a white patch under the chin, Minks have short legs with partially webbed feet, which make them excellent swimmers. They can be found in fields and wooded areas near streams and lakes.

They dig burrows in river banks or often take over an abandoned den of other animals, The mink’s diet primarily consists of fish, crayfish, small mammals, frogs and other amphibians, earthworms, insects and even birds. They also consume carrion.

Minks usually are solitary animals but will mate during the winter. They can have more than one partner but have only one litter annually when 3-5 kits are born in a litter in the early spring.

Their main predators are coyotes, red foxes, wolves (way up north), Bobcats, and the Great Horned Owl. Their numbers have also been reduced by loss of habitat and from pollution of their aquatic food supply. Mink has been highly prized for its fur for use in clothing, with hunting giving way to large-scale mink farming. Like many other things, Minks have also been a focus of animal rights activists..

Red Tide update

Karenia Brevis, the Florida red tide organism was not detected in water samples from Volusia, Brevard, and Indian River Counties. In the Northwest counties of Okaloosa and Walton, the same results were found. In the Southwest region, the Florida Red Tide organism were also absent along shore, between Pinellas and Lee counties. However, three out of nine samples of water along shore showed from present to very low. One sample collected off of Sanibel Island in southern Lee County contained low concentrations of Karenia brevis.

Fishing report: Trout from Volusia-Flagler northward off limits until March 1

The Ocean sea surface temperature immediately offshore is in the mid-50s. Recent weather conditions have made the water pretty murky. In the surf and also on the piers the word is that the bull whiting bite has been excellent. The sheepshead and black drum bite has slowed down; Blue fish are still biting well. In the inlet, Reports of large sheepshead on the rocks have been frequent Best baits are fiddler crabs. Black drum are interspersed with the sheepshead. Bluefish are also biting regularly. In the Halifax and its tributaries, there are numerous reports of redfish strikes and landings.

Up in the Tomoka basin the trout and redfish are biting well. Just a reminder - remember that trout are closed from the Volusia/Flagler line northward to the Georgia border through March I, 2010. Down in the lagoon sand Indian River, shrimping has been great. Some people have reported that so me of the shrimp were the size of hot dogs (I assume they were the size of a regular hot dogs and not the jumbos). The water has been high but fairly clear. There have been some good trout bites and the redfish are schooling.

Freezing weather fish kill minimal; manate deaths high

The results of the fish kill due to the freezing weather a few weeks ago are minimizing. The stench is subsiding and the carcasses have either sunk or have been consumed. However, the fish were not the only casualties from the cold snap we had the first three weeks in January. The same cold snap that helped produce the state’s highest manatee count ever also claimed a record number of manatee victims.

Biologists had said the record-breaking string of cold days produced ideal conditions for counting the manatees, which tend to congregate in warm water when the temperature drops below 65 degrees. The sad news came a week after the state's marine science laboratory announced that the annual winter aerial survey counted a record number of manatees in the State of Florida - 5,000, or 1,200 more than the previous record, set just last year.

An unprecedented number of over a hundred manatee carcasses were found in Florida waters between Jan. 1-23, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Seventy-seven of the deaths were due to cold stress, which exceeds the previous record for cold-related deaths of 56 deaths set in 2009.

The bitter cold weather was also responsible for the deaths of several new born manatees. While a few more carcasses could be discovered, the FWC expects to see the rate slow due to the increase in water temperatures. Last year was the deadliest ever for manatees, state officials reported this month, with records broken both for the total number of deaths statewide (427) and the number of manatees killed by boats (97).

A new federal study stated that the only way the manatee population can survive without risking extinction is to endure twelve or less deaths a year caused by humans. For additional information about manatee conservation visit the web site www.myFWC.com/manatee and for more information about manatee mortality research, visit the web site http://researchMyFWC.com/manatees .

NOAA takes steps to improve fisheries law enforcement

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has directed the agency’s enforcement and legal offices to take the necessary steps to promote greater transparency in law enforcement, ensure fairness in penalties, and improve lines of communication with commercial and recreational fishermen. This action is in response to a Commerce Department Inspector General nationwide review recently that outlines several recommendations to improve the law enforcement operations of NOAA,, which is an agency of the Commerce Department. Dr. Lubchenco requested the review in June 2009 after hearing concerns regarding NOAA enforcement from some members of the fishing community and Congress.

One of the recommendations of the report is for NOAA to develop more uniform policies and procedures where it is appropriate. Dr. Lubchenco has asked Lois Schiffer , the new general counsel for NOAA, to lead a high level review of existing policies and procedures as well as recommendations for ways to increase coordination and consistency, transparency, accountability, and fairness nationwide in agency law enforcement efforts.

Dr. Lubchenco also announced that NOAA will convene a national summit on enforcement policies and practices in order to hear from experts and constituents in the field. The summit will include representatives from the recreational fishery, the commercial fishing industry, environmental groups, and law enforcement experts as well as some participants from NOAA’s office for Law Enforcement and the Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation.

CCA banquet a success

The Mid-coast Chapter of CCA held its banquet and fund raising auction on Feb. 5. The event was a huge success.

Courtesy photo. Capt. Budd remoinds everyone Valentine's Day can be celebrated every day and uses this photo to illustrate his point.

 

Capt. Budd's P.S.

It has been written: “It is a tried and true axiom that as a fisherman grows more sophisticated and refined in his pursuits, the equipment he needs becomes increasingly complex and varied.”

So whether you charter, ride a head boat, run your own vessel, stay in the river, surf, or fish from shore or a bridge, there are fish to be caught. Fishing is not a matter of life and death, it is so much more important than that.

Tight lines,

Capt. Budd

About the Blogger

Capt. Budd Neviaser's picture

Capt. Budd Neviaser
Capt. Budd Neviaser is a life-long resident of New Smyrna Beach who has fished the Intracoastal waterways and the Atlantic Ocean most of his life.

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