Sea Mink: Facts & Extinction

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  • 0:00 The Sea Mink
  • 0:35 Extinction
  • 2:00 Traits
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

While there are several living species of mink, there is one that is extinct. In this lesson you will learn about the sea mink, including some facts about its life and why it went extinct.

The Sea Mink

Have you ever known anyone with a ferret as a pet? Have you seen a weasel or an otter at the zoo? These animals, along with minks and several other species, are members of the same family. It includes quite a number of living species, but there is only one that has gone extinct. The sea mink, or Neovison macrodon, is one of only two carnivorous, or meat-eating, land mammals to go extinct in recent history. In fact, the sea mink went extinct very recently, in the late 1800s.


Historically, many members of the weasel family, minks included, have been hunted for their fur. It tends to be very soft and warm, especially in the winter when they grow thicker coats. The sea mink was no exception, and this is the main reason they went extinct.

Until very recently, there were no laws that regulated trapping or hunting in order to protect endangered or potentially endangered species. That meant hunters and trappers could take as many mink as they wanted. There was a huge demand for fur like this in Europe, and so the sea mink were hunted to extinction.

Hunting by Native Americans may not have been as big of an issue, but it was a factor. They hunted the sea mink for their fur and their meat, even before the European fur traders came.

This over-hunting was made worse because the mink could not reproduce fast enough to keep up their population. They had a very high infant mortality rate, which meant their babies often died very young, without reaching adulthood.

The sea mink went extinct before it was really studied, so there is a lot we don't know. However, people have found remains in what they think were dens, or living areas, of the sea mink. This includes things like mink skeletons and remains of their food. Reports have also been collected from people who actually saw sea mink while they were still around. Along with this information, scientists study the close living relatives of the sea mink and make guesses as to how the sea mink might have acted.


The sea mink got its name because it was a semi-aquatic creature. This means it split its time between being on land and being in the water. Its thick coat protected it from the cold water where it lived, along the coasts of Canada and parts of New England.

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