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Title: Breeding minks in Louisiana for their fur
Author: Elfer, William Andre
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive)



Breeding Minks in Louisiana

FOR THEIR FUR


A Profitable Industry


[Illustration]


BY

WILLIAM ANDRÉ ELFER


FOR SALE BY THE
GESSNER CO.,
611 CANAL ST., NEW ORLEANS, LA.


COPYRIGHTED
BY
W. A. ELFER
1909


Press of J. G. Hauser
"The Legal Printer"
620-622 Poydras St.
New Orleans



PREFACE


This little volume is issued in illustration of the feasibility of
breeding minks in Louisiana for their fur. It is the result of
experiments conducted by the author himself, and he feels that it
should be of interest to many and of value to the few who are looking
for fields for profitable investment. It is the author's aim to issue
a more elaborate work on the same subject sometime during the early
part of next year.

W. A. E.

[Illustration: A Louisiana Mink. Notice the Small Eyes, and the Low,
Rounded Ears, Scarcely Projecting Beyond the Adjacent Fur.]


For the following description of the American mink I am indebted to
the Encyclopædia Britannica:

     "In size it much resembles the English polecat--the length of the
     head and body being usually from fifteen to eighteen inches; that
     of the tail to the end of the hair about nine inches. The female is
     considerably smaller than the male. The tail is bushy, but tapering
     at the end. The ears are small, low, rounded, and scarcely project
     beyond the adjacent fur. The pelage consists of a dense, soft,
     matted under-fur, mixed with long, stiff, lustrous hairs on all
     parts of the body and tail. The gloss is greatest on the upper
     parts; on the tail the bristly hairs predominate. Northern
     specimens have the finest and most glistening pelage; in those
     from the southern regions there is less difference between the
     under- and over-fur, and the whole pelage is coarser and harsher.
     In color, different specimens present a considerable range of
     variation, but the animal is ordinarily of a rich, dark brown,
     scarcely or not paler below than on the general upper parts; but
     the back is usually the darkest, and the tail is nearly black. The
     under jaw, from the chin about as far back as the angle of the
     mouth, is generally white. In the European mink the upper lip is
     also white, but, as this occasionally occurs in American specimens,
     it fails as an absolutely distinguishing character. Besides the
     white on the chin, there are often other irregular white patches on
     the under parts of the body. In very rare instances the tail is
     tipped with white. The fur, like that of most of the animals of the
     group to which it belongs, is an important article of commerce."


The fur market has always been a good market. It has grown firmer and
stronger from year to year, while the prices for furs have been
advancing steadily and rapidly with the growing demand for furs in
Europe and America, and with the general increasing scarcity of all
fur-bearing animals. Mink fur advanced about fifty per cent. during
the last two seasons, and there is every reason to believe that the
mink fur in Louisiana will advance to about six dollars within the
coming three years. The minks caught in Louisiana last season were
sold at an average price of three dollars.

[Illustration: Resting in a Warm Place. Notice the Long Body
and Its Shape.]

[Illustration: In a Position to Jump. Notice the Long Tail.]


Fur-bearing animals are becoming scarce where they were once so
plentiful, and, like the buffaloes that roamed this country in such
great numbers, they will soon, many of them, become extinct if the
present rate of trapping continues to obtain in America. Already
certain fur animals are almost trapped out and are rare. Even the
alligator, which was so plentiful a few years ago in the swamps of
Louisiana, is hardly sought after any more for its hide because of its
scarcity.

The laws enacted by the various State legislatures for the protection
of fur-bearing animals, in fact, offer no protection; for most furs
caught out of season have no market value, and for that reason are not
caught.

In Louisiana a trapper has to procure a hunting license if he wishes
to carry a gun while trapping, which license costs only one dollar and
is good for one season only. Such a low license, while it may bring a
large revenue to the State, clearly has no element of protection in
it. On the contrary, it is a truth that it stimulates both hunting and
trapping, as there were more trappers in Louisiana last season than
before the law requiring this license came into effect. Every trapper
procures a hunting license whether he carries a gun or not, and most
trappers believe the law requires them to have this license to trap.

Whatever is being done for the protection of fur-bearing animals in
Louisiana, the fact remains that they are fast disappearing. Old and
experienced trappers will tell you that minks were very difficult to
trap last season as compared with the seasons of a few years ago, when
they could be so easily trapped in dead-falls. Raccoons, too, which
were so numerous in the rear of old cornfields during the trapping
seasons, have diminished at a surprising rate within the last three
years.

[Illustration: A Female of Two Years.]

While laws are being adopted by different States for the regulation of
trapping to protect fur-bearing animals, it is time for those who
expect to make money with fur in the future to begin raising their own
animals. The time is almost here when trapping will be unprofitable.
Fur animals will be too scarce to make anything at it. Then people
will have to build farms in which to breed minks for their fur, and
mink farms will become common. Minks are the most valuable fur-bearing
animals in Louisiana, being the most numerous, and they are also the
easiest and most profitable to breed for their fur.

Breeding minks in Louisiana for their fur can be made a very
profitable industry. There is more to be made at it than raising
horses, hogs or cattle. After a farm is once completed and stocked,
all expense is about over if there is a large-enough pond in it to
supply the minks with sufficient food. Under the present condition of
the fur market, each female will average a profit of forty dollars a
year. A farm stocked for the first time during the winter with five
hundred female minks should bring its owner the following winter
approximately twenty thousand dollars. This is figured at three
dollars a fur; but within three years the mink fur in Louisiana should
be selling for what the mink fur in the North sold last season. With
this increase in the price of fur, a farm stocked with the same number
should bring forty thousand dollars.

[Illustration: The Fur During the Summer Is Very Poor, and Not So
Dark as It Is During the Winter.]

[Illustration: An Excited Mink Trying to Climb.]

Minks require little room, and thousands can be raised each year on a
farm of ten acres. The larger the farm, however, the better chances
they will have to procure food for themselves, as birds will enter a
large farm more freely than a small one.

For this reason, in building a mink farm the first and most important
requirement is a good location. A small island consisting of low land
covered with trees and grasses, with the opposite shore at least
three-quarters of a mile distant, would make an excellent farm,
provided the surrounding water supplies an abundance of small fishes.
Such an island would, of course, preclude the necessity of using
material for holding the minks in captivity. If a suitable island
cannot be found, a good farm can be made with five or more acres of
low swampy land having a natural growth of trees, grasses and
underbrush, such as can be found in Southern Louisiana. But the piece
of land selected for a farm must inclose a large pond, or several
small ponds, containing a good quantity of small fishes, especially
crayfish. The trees and grasses will attract birds, which, in addition
to fish and rabbits, form a large part of food for the minks.

Feeding minks is pretty costly, and is hardly to be considered by one
entering the business of breeding them for their fur.

The walls surrounding a mink farm can be made either with bricks or
with sheets of corrugated, galvanized iron. The latter material makes
an excellent wall, and costs less than a brick wall. It should be used
in sheets measuring twelve feet in length by about twenty-six inches
in width. These sheets should be used in an upright position, and at
least five feet should be underground and seven feet aboveground. They
should be allowed to lap two inches, and the dirt should be firmly
packed against them. Two rows of wooden strips nailed on the outside
of the wall, one about two feet above the ground, and the other along
the top edge of the sheets, will greatly strengthen the wall and also
prevent the wind from shaking it.

[Illustration: A Young Female Mink Walking Along the Walls of a
Small Farm.]

The following photograph shows a small pentagonal farm, the walls of
which are made with sheets of corrugated, galvanized iron. Each side
measures sixteen feet in length, extending four feet underground and
four feet aboveground. Wire netting is used to cover the farm, not to
prevent the minks from jumping over, although the walls are too low,
but to prevent chickens, cats and buzzards from entering and eating
the food put in for the minks. A wooden shed also covers a part of the
small farm and serves to keep out some of the rain and heat, there
being no shrubs or trees therein. There are two small troughs in the
ground for holding water, and in the center of the farm there is a
place for the minks to live during the day, which consists of boards
laid five inches above the surface of the ground with about fourteen
inches of dirt on top. Under these boards it is dark during the day
and always damp and cool. There are also several barrels in this farm
filled with corn shucks and hay for the minks to enter during cold
weather. The minks in this little farm are fed with the spleen of
cattle, different meats, crayfish and other small fishes. The cost of
this farm, or pen, which has been used for experimental purposes only,
amounts to approximately forty-two dollars. It is large enough to
raise two hundred minks if they are properly fed and cared for.

[Illustration: A Small Mink Farm.]

[Illustration: Part of Interior of Small Farm, Showing Boards With
Dirt on Top for the Minks to Live Under During the Day.]

Sometimes an island can be used for a farm even when it has opposite
shores or islands within two hundred feet or less, provided the water
surrounding it has an average depth of from four to six feet. In such
a case, the walls inclosing the island should be built in the water at
a distance of fifty or one hundred feet from its shores. Sheets of
metal should be used, as previously described, by placing them upright
in the water and nailing them together with strips running along the
outside. It is not essential that the lower wall should be in the
ground or even touching it; posts can be driven in the ground to
strengthen the wall, or to support it entirely.

[Illustration: A Mink Farm Made Out of an Island. The Water
Surrounding Has a Uniform Depth of Five Feet.]

In a small farm where minks are in close captivity and have to be fed,
the old ones used for the purpose of stocking it will at first do
considerable digging near the walls. They will dig into loose earth to
a depth ranging from a few inches to three feet in their attempts to
liberate themselves. But they will cease to dig after they have been
in captivity for about four months. Those born in a farm will not dig
or try to get out. They will climb, however, to a height of fifteen
feet on reclining trees or on bushes, and for this reason all trees,
bushes and pieces of lumber should be removed from the inside of the
walls before any minks are turned loose in a farm. They will
ordinarily jump to a height of four feet. They can climb wooden walls
as swiftly as a cat, or any wall made of soft material.

[Illustration: Disturbed in Her Sleep. Notice the Bushy Tail.]

The following sketch shows the very best mink farm that can be made.
It requires a rectangular piece of land of five or ten acres, running
along and separated by a large bayou in the swamps of Louisiana.
Covering this land there should be the necessary trees, shrubbery and
grasses. The walls are built along the bayou about one hundred feet
from the middle, and extend underground to a depth of six feet. The
walls at the ends of the farm where they cross the bayou should be
very carefully constructed. At these places where the walls cross the
bayou should have a depth of at least twelve feet or more, so that the
walls can be made to extend nine feet below the water surface for
one-third the width of the stream and still have sufficient openings
below the walls to permit the water to flow through freely. For
example, if the bayou is fifty feet wide, fifteen feet of the wall
crossing it can be elevated so that there will be a large-enough
opening below for the water to flow. The remaining portion of the wall
(that lying near the shore) should be driven in the ground for about
one foot, as minks will not dig under water. A farm of five acres,
similar to the one just described, would cost, completed,
approximately eight hundred dollars. The minks in such a farm, owing
to the continuous change of water in the bayou, would always have an
abundance of food. The banks of the bayou would afford a natural
breeding-place, as minks usually burrow in the banks of small streams
or along canals and have their young near the water. If the water in
the bayou falls, wire netting could be used over the opening at the
ends below the walls.

[Illustration: A Mink Farm Inclosing Portion of a Bayou, Allowing the
Water to Flow Through.]

[Illustration: An Angry Mink.]


     "Minks eat birds, small mammals and eggs. The principal food of
     minks comes from water, fish, frogs, crayfish."--_International
     Encyclopædia._


The minks I have been experimenting with have persistently refused to
eat frogs. I penned one up separately and attempted to feed her on
frogs only, and I believe she would have starved rather than eat
frogs.

Minks can be raised in any kind of pen or cage, and water is not
essential to their happiness. They are easily tamed and like to be
petted.



Habits of the Mink in Louisiana


Minks in Louisiana have two litters a season, the
number of young in each brood varying from four to eight. Sometimes,
however, but very rarely, there will be only two in a brood, and
almost as infrequently, on the other hand, there will be three litters
a season instead of two. Captive animals breed more profusely than the
wild, and will occasionally have three litters where they are in close
captivity. They begin to breed when they are about one year old, and
in captivity will raise an average of fourteen a year. Normally, they
live to be about nine years old, but they will live longer in
captivity where they are well treated and given all the water and the
different foods required by them.

Like all other industries, the business of breeding minks for their
fur necessitates an outlay of capital. A farm cannot be built without
money, and the cost of one sufficiently large to breed minks
profitably ranges from five hundred to a thousand dollars. Of course,
a farm can be made any size and costing any amount of money; but large
farms are not necessary, and it is much better to have several small
farms of six or ten acres than one very large one.

[Illustration: A Female Mink Resting With Eyes Open.]

After a farm is completed it has to be stocked, and the task is no
easy or inexpensive one. Trappers will have to be employed to trap
minks with No. 1 steel traps, as these small traps do not injure them
very much unless they are permitted to remain caught too long. Those
that have badly-broken bones should not be bought, as suffering will
cause them to eat their leg off, in which case they will always die.

The author intends to organize a company styled the "Louisiana Mink
Company," the objects and purposes of which shall be to build mink
farms and to breed minks in this State for their fur.

No matter what capital is involved, or expense incurred, in entering
into the business of breeding minks for their fur, the returns will be
so big that this will appear small in comparison. And those who are so
fortunate as to start in the industry now will, when minks will have
become so rare that trapping will be unprofitable, and the demand so
great that the prices for mink fur will soar higher and higher--those
persons, I say, of foresight, who had the good fortune to start in the
business early, will reap each year the steady advances in the price
of mink fur, and be able, in a word, to command the fur market of both
Europe and America.



Transcriber's Notes

All obvious typographical corrections were made. All original spelling
and gramatic constructs were retained. Some images were moved to
rejoin split paragraphs. Where the first letter in a paragraph was
displayed in Old English font, it was assumed that represented a new
"section".





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