Mink Vs Fisher Cat

Young Fisher cat (Pekania pennanti) with an open mouth and turned left
© Holly Kuchera/Shutterstock.com

Written by Colby Maxwell

Published: February 18, 2022

Share on:


Understanding the difference between a mink and a fisher cat (sometimes referred to as just a “fisher”) isn’t all that easy, especially with how much they share in common! Still, there are some key differences that separate the two and allow us to correctly distinguish them. Let’s take a look at these amazing creatures to understand their most significant differences. Here are 5 ways you can tell the difference between a mink and a fisher cat!

The 5 key differences between a mink and a fisher cat

The most notable difference between a mink and a fisher is their size, color, range, and food source. Mink are much smaller than fishers, weighing an average of 2.5 lbs. Fishers are closer in size to a domestic house cat, often weighing up to 13 lbs (for males). Additionally, a mink can range from a light brown in color to a dark chocolate brown that almost appears black. Fishers are usually darker, ranging from dark brown to black.

Besides, Minks are found in almost all of the US states except for Arizona, as well as most of Canada and Newfoundland. Fishers have a smaller range, mainly being located mostly in Canada. Their US range includes four areas: New England, the Great Lakes, the Northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest.

Mink are carnivores that eat are known to eat fish, rabbits, squirrels, rodents, snakes, turtles, frogs, crayfish, and anything else they can catch. Fisher cats are similar to mink, only they will sometimes add plant material into their diets, making them omnivores.

Now, let’s see the differences between Mink and Fisher in detail.

Mink Vs Fisher Cat: Size

Mink Vs Fisher Cat

Mink are smaller than fisher cats although both are a part of the weasel family.

©Mircea Costina/Shutterstock.com

Mink are smaller members of the weasel family and look very serpentine and lithe in their build. On average, they weigh up to 2.5 lbs, although this number can increase in farming situations, with some individuals reaching up to 7 lbs. Mink are almost always going to be smaller than a fisher cat.

Fisher cats are also members of the weasel family, only they are much larger than mink are. They are sexually dimorphic, with the male being larger. They grow up to 13 lbs and can be 47 inches long. Interestingly, fisher cats have retractable claws on their feet. The largest fisher ever recorded was a 20 lb individual.

Mink Vs Fisher Cat: Color

Mink are different than fishers in color, but only slightly. Mink can be light brown (or tawny, as it’s often called) to a dark brown that almost looks black. The main difference between mink and fisher cats coloration is when we begin looking at farms. Mink have been selectively bred for generations, and as a result, there are 17 different color variations. Some of these colors are as simple as white, while others are more complicated with names like Silver Blue Cross. Fur farmers selectively breed mink according to their genetics in order to get the fur crosses they desire.

Fishers were once farmed but proved to be difficult. Now, they almost exclusively exist in the wild. Their natural colors are similar to natural mink, only a bit darker. They can range from a ruddy brown all the way to black, with graduated variations in between.

Mink Vs Fisher Cat: Range

Mink Vs Fisher Cat

Mink have a much larger range than the fisher cat, covering almost all of North America while the fisher cat sticks mostly to the far north.


American mink live across every state in the US except for Arizona, up into most of Canada, and down into some regions of Mexico. The European mink once had a large range across most of the continent, but hunting reduced it drastically. Now, European mink can be found in small pockets in Europe, but most of their population is in Russia.

Fisher cats live in North America and, like the European mink, once had a much larger range than they do today. Currently, fishers can be found across almost all of Canada and in four areas of the United States: the Great Lakes, New England, the Northern Rockies, and the Pacific North West.

Mink Vs Fisher Cat: Habitat

Mink are water-dependent and semi-aquatic animals. As a result, they will always live near an area with water, even if they leave that area occasionally to hunt. They prefer places near rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes and will occasionally live near the seashore. Most locations will have ample tree cover with multiple dens they can stop at around their territory.

Fisher cats prefer northern boreal and mixed forests across the northern United States and Canada. As forests recover from destructive practices in generations past, fishers have begun to spread further south, sometimes even into the Appalachian Mountains to the east and the Sierra Nevadas to the west. They dig ground burrows or create their own dens that they will populate through the entire year.

Mink Vs Fisher Cat: Diet

Mink Vs Fisher Cat

Mink are carnivores that prey on fish and small mammals while fisher cats mostly eat small mammals and some plants.

©Holly Kuchera/Shutterstock.com

The main difference between a mink and a fishers diet is the presence of plant material. Mink are primarily carnivores that specialize in catching fish and rabbits. In fact, they often pick territory according to their ability to find a rabbit warren and a good fishing hole. Additionally, they eat eggs, birds, frogs, crayfish, snakes, turtles, and other small mammals.

Fisher cats, despite their name, don’t fish! They are omnivores that primarily prey on small mammals, mostly rabbits, and porcupines. In fact, fisher cats are some of the only animals in the world that can successfully prey on porcupines. Additionally, they are known to eat birds, mice, eggs, hares, and shrews, plus the occasional mushroom or berry find.

Mink prefer locations close to water as that is their primary resource for food. They often den and live within a few feet of a water source, although they do range into the forest when looking for their favorite food, rabbits. They are found near rivers, streams, lakes, and occasionally seashores. Fisher cats prefer forests that have a mixture of coniferous and conifer forests. They are found in low to mid-elevations, often near the foothills of mountains.

Share this post on:
About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.