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72   COMMISSION OF CONSERVATION

Quebec and the Ungava peninsula. While it lives on the water a large part of its time and makes its home near streams, it can live on the land away from the water and has even been found in trees.

The fur is dense and soft and the overhair is of stiff lustrous water
hairs. The darkest colour extends down the back and tail. The dyers
usually accentuate the dark colour by brush dying or tipping the fur.
Brass estimates the world's yearly supply as follows: America
600,000 skins; Europe, 20,000; and Asia, 20,000. They do not seem
to be decreasing rapidly, but the price is advancing and, owing to the
excellent quality and durability of the fur, is likely to remain high.
Some fancy ranch skins have been sold for $13 and good skins will
bring about $10 each. Some conception of the extra value of north-
eastern mink can be formed when it is known that Quebec furriers sold
their mink to New York in 1911 at $9 each, and purchased mink of
the same quality mixed with best eastern United States skins at $8 each.

MINK-FARMING

 

The farming of the mink is still in the experimental stage and no ranches examined, except perhaps two, would justify detailed descriptions as models to copy from. It has been demonstrated that mink can be kept in captivity and its young reared successfully. As for the quality of pelt, only a few statements could be secured. All attempts to rear this animal in Canada are too recent, or else were made over thirty years ago when mink was high-priced, and accurate records were not kept. The statements of sales of skins received were highly satisfactory, and indicate that pelts from stock bred in ranches is, under certain conditions, better than the wild stock. It was also demonstrated that rapid improvement in the stock is possible because of the opportunity for selection of sires—an opportunity not possible in fox rearing at the present time because of the latter animal's monogamous habits. Thus, one male out of every four or five can be chosen for his size, beauty of colour or quiet disposition, and a rapid improvement towards a good stock made.

There have been hundreds of mink ranches in America and there are probably about fifty in Canada at the present time. None of them are very pretentious except, possibly, that of La Compagnie Zootechnique de Labelle, Ltd., the head office of which is in Montreal and the ranch at Lac Chaud, in the Laurentian highlands of Quebec. The capital of the company is $49,000. As soon as the success of mink-ranching is assured, it is proposed to proceed with the breeding of the otter along similar lines.


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