The Business of Minkenry: Joseph Carter ‘The Mink Man’ Creates a Life Around Working with Weasels

By Rising McDowell

Joseph with his mink Black Mamba and the first wild game she ever caught, a ground squirrel
For me, the intrigue is being a forerunner—being a pioneer in something. That excites me more than anything.–Joseph Carter The Mink Man

The average person is daunted by the unknown. But Joseph Carter isn’t average. He is truly a pioneer—someone who looks into uncharted territory and says resolutely, “That’s where I’m going.” Almost twenty years into working with mink, Joseph—now known as The Mink Man—has never stopped trying new things.

Growing up, Joseph was always in love with animals. Every day during school he daydreamed about the adventures he would have later, venturing through the outdoors in search of wildlife. It’s no stretch to say that his experiences with animals as a child outnumbered those of most adults. 

He raised a quail from an egg. He caught a hedgehog and raised it as a pet. Then he did the same with a raccoon, a possum, a squirrel, rabbits and other wild critters. He spent summers with his grandfather, who was a renowned horse trainer, and by age 7 Joseph was on the back of a horse herding cattle. At 15 he decided to move in with his grandfather so he could work with animals every day, and after learning to train horses and cattle dogs he soon became obsessed with falconry; the rest of his youth was consumed by flying his bird.

Soon enough, another creature came along that changed Joseph’s life forever. Training it required him to combine all of his knowledge and skills with a degree of persistence that few people have. It was the American Mink, and Joseph’s undying dedication led him to become the first person in history to tame and train one. Mink are a semi-aquatic member of the weasel family—a collection of small but fierce predators that are known to be highly aggressive. People said they could never be tamed. 

Now Joseph takes his mink to farms and ranches where they work in tandem with his dogs to perform pest control services that are typically done with poisons and traps. He has also written the world’s first and only mink training manual, shares videos of his mink with nearly a million YouTube subscribers, and has begun teaching others how to work with mink themselves. Joseph has excelled at turning his passion into his livelihood, and I had a blast talking with him about that fascinating and unparalleled journey.

Joseph, his lurcher dog Onsa and two mink (kenneled) pose with the results of a day's work

Rising McDowell for The Shakti Journal:
Tell us about your first experiences with mink. When you first set out to train mink lots of people doubted you, yet you proved them wrong. Can you speak to the experience of being dismissed but doing it anyway? 

Joseph Carter the Mink Man:
Just proving that it could be done was actually a big motivation for me in the beginning. I tamed my first mink relatively quickly and proved it could be done, in my mind at least. But the minute I tamed that individual I had immediate critics who said, “You just got lucky,” or “You got a nice one.” One guy even claimed, “That particular color of mink is more docile, of course you had success. You couldn’t do it with a black mink, they’re impossible.” That was back in 2003.

So then I thought, Well let me go acquire a black mink then! Soon enough my neighbors happened to have one stuck in their garage—it had escaped from a nearby mink farm, and they knew I was good with animals so they asked me to help them get it out. I brought that mink home and tried a new taming method that completely and utterly failed. But I didn’t once think, Oh, that guy was right, it’s because of the color. I just realized that some methods work better than others.

Not long after that I stumbled upon another black mink that was being harassed by some kids. It seemed like they were going to kill it, so I took him and saved him. I went back to my original method that I used to tame my first mink, and it was super easy all over again. 

So yeah, it felt pretty great because people said I couldn’t do it, and I did. Then they said black minks were impossible, but I did that too. Even years after I’d already had success there were still people who would say, “Oh that’s impossible, you can’t do that.” But I’ve tamed and trained dozens of mink now. People say I’m amazing, but I’m not amazing, I’m just using the right methods.

SJ:
When you first started, I imagine there must have been a lot of trial and error as you were doing something no one had ever done before. Did you ever doubt yourself? What part of the process was the most challenging?

JC:
In the very beginning I did have some doubt. But because of my experience working with animals, I had success very early on as far as getting one not to bite. That wasn’t as hard as I expected or as people made it out to be. So as soon as I was able to do that, I had plenty of faith I could tame one.

The part that I really doubted, where I had years of struggle with limited results, was getting the mink to do more specific things. For example, if the mink catches something down a hole and you want it back, the easiest thing (in practice) is for them to bring it out for you. That way you don’t have to dig, lift things up or figure out a way to get to it. But in reality, teaching them to bring something back is a horribly long and frustrating process.

Rocky, pictured at about 6 weeks old, rests on Joseph's arm

The first time I attempted to teach that skill, I poured everything into training one individual animal for about a year and a half and it ended in a total failure. So at the end of that attempt, I thought, Ok, I’m going to start from scratch with a new individual and we are going to start training it as a baby. As soon as it has enough dexterity that it can walk around, and enough eyesight that it can see across the room, we’re going to start training.

With that animal I had considerably better results; we got close to 100% success in artificial environments, but in real situations it was far from it. Finally on the third mink I trained for this skill, he caught on relatively quickly and with little training. It was a huge relief to realize it was possible, but I learned that a lot of it comes down to the individual animal.

SJ:
How did the idea of pest-eradication services come about? Tell us the story of how you went from a guy with a couple mink to a business offering professional services.

JC:
When I started with mink, my idea was to fish with one. I had read in a book about people in Asia fishing with trained otters. That really intrigued me and I became obsessed with the idea of training the mink to catch fish. 

So here’s how the pest control started: I was attempting to train my first minks to catch fish in a little city park. This park had a cute stream flowing through it with plenty of fish, but it was also infested with rats, and while I was trying to encourage my mink to catch fish they started catching the rats instead.

Previously the idea of hunting rats with mink really didn’t appeal to me. But I quickly realized the mink were much better at hunting rats than they were fish, plus they clearly enjoyed it more, so why fight it? Watching my mink chase these rats down actually became quite exciting, and I kind of flip-flopped from fishing to ratting.

Months later, I was in the same park catching rats with my mink when someone approached me saying, “You can’t do that, the park sign says no harassing animals!” What he didn’t know was that I had already found smoke bombs in the rat burrows—it was clear the city was having someone else try to kill these rats.

Fitts Park in South Salt Lake, Utah where Joseph first started training mink, was confronted by police, then got his first pest control job
Joseph's mink Missy, the first mink he successfully hunted with

I told him the sign was about wildlife, not rats, but he wouldn’t leave us alone. Finally I said, “Look, if you don’t like it so much, call the police and they can talk to us about it.”

So he called the police, the police showed up and I told the cop, “Hey, we’re doing a public service and this guy is harassing us.” All she could say was, “Well technically, the sign doesn’t specify which animals…”

I knew I wasn’t committing a crime and I was determined to get to the bottom of it, so I told her, “I want to talk to whoever is in charge. Who can I talk to?”

She got on the phone, figured out who was in charge and gave me their number. I called the guy in charge and he was super excited about what I was doing. He told me, “Oh this is great, I’d love to have you get rid of the rats! We’ve had this problem for years and we’ve never been able to solve it. I just have to check with our legal team, let me get back to you.”

He called me back a few days later and said, “Joseph, I’m really sorry but we can’t let you do that.” I couldn’t believe it. The city lawyer had told him it would be a liability. “So you pay someone to do it but you won’t let me do it for free?” I asked him. He was kind of taken aback. That’s when I told him I had found the smoke bombs they were using for pest control, and that I knew they were hiring someone. But it obviously wasn’t working. 

I said, “We got 30 rats out of one den system. You know whoever you’ve hired isn’t killing the rats, are they? What you’re doing is not working, is it?” Finally he admitted, “No, it’s not working at all…” So I just came right out and asked him, “Why are you paying him when he’s not getting anything done, and you’re kicking me out when I am getting something done?” I could tell he wanted to agree with me, but he just repeated, “I’m sorry, my hands are tied. The lawyer said you can’t do it.” 

I still wasn’t willing to give it up. “So…” I replied, “it’s not a liability for him to waste your time and money, but it is a liability for me?” That’s when he said, “Well, he’s got a business license.” I said, “So if I get a business license can I do it?” And he said, “Oh sure, I’ll hire you in a heartbeat!” I instantly decided, “Done, let me get a license.”

I went to the city, applied for a business license, and got the license. I named my business Minkenry Services Pest Control. With my new license, I called the guy back and he said, “Ok! I want to see what you do. I’ve heard a lot about it on the phone, but I want to see it in person.” So we showed up at the park together, I stuck my mink down a hole, a rat popped out, I netted one, the mink caught another, and he hired me right there on the spot.

That was 8 years ago and that was how I got my first job doing pest control. It was totally us getting kicked out of the park or I never would’ve gotten the job. I really liked hunting at that park—it was really close, it was really convenient—I didn’t want to just give it up. And I’m kind of stubborn. When you push me I push back, so the fact that it became a fight is what egged me on more than anything else.

Joseph with his 4-month-old mink That'e', an Omaha name that translates to 'bite to death'

SJ:
What a great story. Sometimes confrontations with authority can really push us to find new ways of accomplishing our goals. So how did you develop that into a bigger business? What were some of your next jobs?

JC:
People started hearing about me through word of mouth. Shortly after the city park job, a friend called me and said, “Hey Joe, my friends have this rat in their wall and they can’t get rid of it. They’ve tried everything, they’ve hired guys, nobody can help.” It was just one individual rat and they could not catch it. It caused them so much heartache because they’d hear it at night tromping around their house, scratching and scurrying to no end.

When I showed up to the house there were traps and poison and glue—everything you could possibly imagine—all over the house and this rat had been there for months without any problem. It just avoided the traps and didn’t eat the poison. So I said, “Ok, I can’t have my mink around this junk. Clean all this up, and I’ll catch your rat.” 

So they got rid of all the contraptions, I let my mink loose, she ran around the living room, into the kitchen, and then up into their food pantry. Back behind some food boxes there was a hole the rat had chewed through the drywall that nobody knew was there. My mink found the hole, went in, killed the rat and we were done. I walked out with a $100 bill and they were elated. It turned out to be a huge rat—I mean, this thing was the size of a squirrel. I could’ve charged them $1,000 and they would’ve paid it, but I didn’t want to take advantage—I was only there for all of 15 minutes. That was my second pest control job.

Then it just spread from there and I started getting more calls. Soon enough, the neighbors of that couple also had a problem with rats. They’d get a big flood in their beautiful finished basement because rats were in the basement ceiling chewing water lines. They’d find the leak, patch it, and then a couple weeks later the rats would chew a different water line and they’d have another flood somewhere else in the house. It was causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages and there was nothing they could do to catch the rats. 

I went in with my mink and we caught them within a matter of minutes. Not only did we catch them, we also found out how the rats were getting in the house: my mink went into the ceiling and popped out at a totally unexpected spot. So we plugged that hole, got rid of the rats they had, and that was it. In that case I could’ve charged them $10,000 and they would’ve paid it because the amount of damage being done was out of this world. But I just charged them $150 and they were pleased as could be.

SJ:
When you first started bringing your mink to other people’s properties with the expectation that they would ‘perform’, were you ever nervous? Were your clients skeptical?

JC:
I think it was actually the opposite. I had more confidence than was due. In the beginning I felt like I could conquer the world, like there was no rat we couldn’t catch. But as time went on I started realizing there were situations that I couldn’t fix. 

For example, if a rat was traveling from a neighbor’s yard into their property and then leaving, what can I do about that? I have to happen to catch the rat just as it enters their property? And even if I get permission from the neighbor, who knows if the rat actually lives there—it might be the other neighbor, or two houses down. 

Pretty soon I started to figure out which jobs were realistic and which ones were not, and sometimes I was wrong and I still ran into struggles I didn’t expect. In the few situations that just didn’t work, I had to explain to them, “Because of X, Y and Z there’s only so much we can do.”

But I always try to give people realistic expectations. Then I started to ask the right questions over the phone, like ‘what are the neighbors like, what have you tried,’ rather than just showing up.

Joseph with his mink Fang (3 1/2 mos.) and lurcher dog Onsa (6 mos.) with the first muskrat they had ever caught; Fang flushed the muskrat from a hole and Onsa dived in the water to get it
The raising of a great hunter: Joseph's mink Back Mamba picutured here at 5 1/2 weeks old

And then I could tell them, “Ok, based on what you said I think I can do it,” or, “I really don’t know that I can help. Do you want me to show up anyway?” I couldn’t tell you about people’s skepticism because I never really read into that. I just tried to do my job and if it got done it did.

I realized that a lot of what I would end up doing is just educating people. Oftentimes explaining why they have rats is more beneficial than catching a few individuals, because that just won’t solve the problem. So I’ll tell people, “You have a bird feeder right here and a wood pile right there—you’re giving the rats food and a home. So I can catch your rat today, but you’ll have another one tomorrow. If you don’t want the rats to come back, you need to change something.”

SJ:
A growing list of studies now shows us how rat poison is affecting wildlife. It’s actually quite a big issue, because not only do a great number of wildlife species suffer directly, but secondary exposure to animals that prey on rodents is a huge problem as well, and the poison also runs off into streams and lakes. All told, it’s virtually all wildlife that’s affected—all kinds of birds (but especially owls and hawks) bats, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, weasels, reptiles, insects, even fish. Rodenticide is now the second leading cause of death for mountain lions in California.

It’s great how natural and low-impact your mink-powered services are. You go in, your animals do their thing, and you leave. Are people pretty impressed when your mink clean out a whole barn in a day? What is it like tackling huge infestations where other methods have repeatedly failed?

JC:
Huge problems take a lot of work and effort to fix and sometimes aren’t fixable. Sometimes it just ends up being population control rather than elimination. You’ll find that when you have these big out-of-control populations, other methods don’t work—at all. Often when I see these unbelievable rat infestations, it’s with poison every ten feet! The rats just learn not to eat it. I’ve even read in some cases they become immune to it, so people start using more poison and stronger poison.

So yeah, it’s pretty exciting to the guys that have been trying for years and still have rats everywhere to be able to go in and, depending on the situation, either totally knock them out or at least get them down to more reasonable levels that can be controlled. Sometimes just doing that is a huge battle in and of itself. 

I’ve got one job that I’ve been doing for years where we go in about once a month and bring the rat numbers down. There’s so many places for them to hide on that property that it’s kind of impossible to eliminate them—they burrow under roads, under buildings, and they hide in the haystacks that are part of the feed for the cattle. There’s just no way to completely avoid that. 

But other places can be more cut and dry, depending on the location and set-up of the property. I’ve been working on a pheasant farm that had several hundred rats on it and in a couple bouts we made a huge difference in their situation. We’re nearing the point where I think we’re going to clean it out completely, so that feels really great.

Catch of the Day: Joseph's dogs pose with the rats caught in tandem with mink during the day's pest control job
What happens with the rats? A Zero-Waste Policy
Joseph’s mink don’t eat rats while they are working—they are trained to return to their crate after the job is done, where Joseph feeds them prepared meat treats from previous jobs and hunts. Not only would the mink stopping to have a meal disrupt the task at hand, there are many other health and safety reasons why the mink are trained not to eat rats on the spot.
Many of the rats they catch have varying levels of rat poison in them that would poison the mink, therefore they need to be inspected and processed first. Certain body parts, like the stomach & intestines, are removed as they contain high levels of bacteria that can make the mink sick. (In the wild, mink will eat around the stomach of their prey and leave it behind.) All rats and other animals that the mink catch must also be inspected for other signs of disease.
Once these animals are processed by Joseph into a ground meat that is pure and disease-free, they are then used as food for the mink. Rats that are caught live (as seen in the cages above) are sold to owners of pet snakes. No animal ever gets wasted. Muskrats, which are mink’s primary prey animals in the wild, have a pelt that is valuable and can be removed and traded for meat with those who catch muskrats for their pelts. This way both parties avoid unnecessary waste.

SJ:
Your services are so unique, and contrary to many other pest control methods they’re quite effective. Word about you must be continuing to spread. Have you been getting more inquiries lately?

JC:
Definitely, the number of calls I get is increasing as time goes on. Unfortunately most of them are from out of state and it’s just not very realistic for me to pick up and drive around the country with a couple dozen mink and half a dozen dogs—it’s rather stressful for the animals and I’m a family guy, I want to be with my family. 

The inquiries come from all the way from California to Illinois, Michigan, even D.C. and I can occasionally do some of those, but being in Utah I can’t do them all. I still get new jobs locally, though. And now that my YouTube channel is so big, that’s huge advertising for me as well.

SJ:
Right, your YouTube channel was how I first found out about you. You have an impressive amount of content online, and close to a million subscribers now. When I contacted you about an interview you told me it would take 20 hours a week just to get back to all the messages and questions your followers send you. How do you manage to produce and keep all your content straight?

JC:
Between caring for the mink, doing jobs, making videos, helping aspiring minkeners, and raising my kids, I frankly do not have enough time for everything. I’m not sleeping enough and I’m still strapped. So sometimes it can be pretty overwhelming because I have a lot of other things to do outside of making videos.

Now that I can afford to, I’ve started hiring people to help. I do most of the cleaning myself, but sometimes when I get swamped I have a boy in the neighborhood who comes and helps me clean the mink pens and the backyard. I’ve also got a guy who helps me with filming and video editing. When we have 4 hours of footage from a hunt, he’ll consolidate it to 45 minutes, and then I’ll take it from there and turn it into a 15-minute YouTube video.

SJ:
Have you been able to monetize your content enough to offset the cost of keeping the mink? What was it like transitioning to a life fully focused on your animals?

JC:
Yes, YouTube revenue is actually my main source of income now. Prior to my life as Mink Man I had a career as a financial planner with TransAmerica for a number of years. As my work with mink started ramping up, I took a job at Fidelity as an assistant planner because I wanted a step down in responsibility.

With Fidelity I was able to work over the phone, so it was a lot easier for me to do two things at once—I could talk on the phone and edit videos at the same time. They also allowed me to set my own schedule, so I purposefully took the night shifts when very few calls were coming through. That way I’d have time to work my videos while still earning an income. 

Minkenry family outing: Joseph with his wife Maggie, two daughters (7 mos. & 2 1/2 mos. old) and mink Black Mamba

I kept that up for 2 or 3 years. When I was home I was hunting and taking care of animals and being a family guy, and when I was at work I was multitasking. That allowed me to get enough content up on YouTube that I had enough revenue coming in to eventually surpass what I was making at work. 

But I didn’t immediately jump ship. Even when I was making more through YouTube than I was at Fidelity, I kept working and saving all the extra. When they’d offer me promotions I’d politely decline and say, “No thank you, I just want to keep doing my job really well.” I basically maintained the same position when I could’ve moved up in the company just because I wanted the flexibility. 

After close to a year of earning more through my videos, I finally told my boss, “Hey, I love this job, but I love this other job (my mink) more. What do I need to do to leave on the best foot possible?” And he said, “You’ve proven yourself time and time again, you’re good to go.” 

I worked really hard to get that reputation. I did such a good job, my boss didn’t even mind that I was editing videos during work. He knew I’d been making more money outside of work for a long time and he had been wondering why I was still around. He said anyone else would’ve quit a long time ago, and he was probably right.

So I finally quit my job in January of 2019 and went full time YouTube and pest control. Of course YouTube revenue dropped drastically right after that! But I was OK because I still had plenty of savings and I’m a very frugal guy, so I was able to squeeze by without a problem. And it’s popped back up again since then.

SJ:
Your book The New Sport of Minkenry: The Art of Taming, Training and Hunting with One of Nature’s Most Intense Predators is the first mink training manual we know of in history. Pretty epic. At what point in this journey did you decide you would write a book?

JC:
Writing a book was a dream of mine from a very young age, before I even knew what a mink was. As a little kid I was a total outdoorsy bookworm, which is kind of a funny oxymoron. I would obsessively study animals and then I would go out and gain real experience working with them. So I always wanted to write a book about animals.

As my videos on YouTube began to grow and become popular, I started getting more and more people interested in learning how to do what I do. Sharing that information in video can be very helpful, but there are so many details that are hard to portray and just get missed, frankly, and people had so many questions.

It started to get where it took up so much of my time answering questions. I’m not saying I had hundreds of people calling me, there’s just so much to know that helping even one person is very tedious. I’d have to explain all the details of diet, all the details of housing, all the details of training. Then I found myself repeating that with a new person every other month. It became extremely time-consuming.

Finally I said to myself, “I’m at the point now where I have to write this book. Either that or just stop helping people. Those are my two options. Because I can’t realistically continue to help people on a one-on-one basis.” If I published the book, I could stop answering the same questions over and over again and actually have some of my life back.

SJ:
So what was the process like of writing and compiling everything you know about mink?

'Hobo Joe': Joseph during his homeless period with his mink Thioⁿba Sabe', or 'Black Lightning' in the Omaha language

JC:
Oh man, it was quite the process. You’re going to chuckle at this: I actually went homeless for a while so that I could finish the book. I realized I couldn’t work and write the book at the same time or I would never finish. It was just too much. Eventually I decided I would stop doing everything else and just finish the book.

I wasn’t married at the time so I didn’t have any family obligations. I just had my little laptop and a vehicle, so I quit my job and left my place with just enough money for gas and food. I didn’t need much because I had some wheat that I boiled and I hunted and gathered food as well. That was in the summer of 2013 and I stayed homeless through the next spring just working on my book. 

Finally in 2014 I had to knuckle down and get a job and a place because I was getting married, so from that point on I juggled work and writing. But my wife helped by working as well, and I was able to finish it that summer. It was a little over a year of full-time work or more—60–80 hour weeks working on the book for the 8 months or so that I was homeless, and 40 hours a week dedicated to the book once I got another job.

SJ:
If you were living out of your car, where did your mink live? 

JC:
I only had two mink at the time, and I had a friend who had gotten a mink as well so I kept them with his mink. He was quite a bit younger than me so he lived at home, and our mink lived in his parents backyard. We had this tarp over the mink cages to keep them shaded and dry, and eventually I started sleeping right there next to the mink. Then I’d roll up my sleeping bag in the morning and put it away in my car.

I thought we were being sneaky and that the parents didn’t know, but when winter rolled around, after a few snow storms they came to me and said, “Look, we know you live out here. We’re not comfortable with you living out in the snow.” I told them, “Oh I’m totally fine, don’t worry about it, I just really need to finish this book.”

They said, “We’ve got an attic you can sleep in if you want to, we just don’t feel right sleeping in the warm house while you’re out here in the cold.” So once it got really snowy I started sleeping in the attic. It wasn’t heated so it wasn’t really that warm, but it was a bit more out of the weather than a sleeping bag under a tarp.

SJ:
Being homeless, sleeping under the tarp and in the attic, giving everything to your book, what did that feel like? Tell us about finally reaching the end of that process and getting the book published.

JC:
I have a very positive way of thinking, almost to a flaw, so if I had those down times I don’t remember them. I just remember being excited that the book was progressing, that I was almost done, I was almost done. Of course that “almost done” goes on for a long time. But writing and self-publishing a manual book is pretty intensive.

I did all of the writing but I did have some help with editing as spelling is not my strong suit.  It’s funny, looking back I realize the “editors” for my book were someone who speaks English as a second language (my wife) and two high school kids (a friend and a friend’s little cousin, but they were smart kids!)

The friend’s cousin had zero interest in animals or the outdoors at the beginning, but by the end she said, “This was really cool! This made me like mink!” And I thought, Well if you enjoyed the book and now have an interest in mink, that’s a dang good book! The New Sport of Minkenry became available around August of 2014 and is available for purchase in my Shopify.

SJ:
Now that your book is published, there must be people out there who are working on replicating your tactics. Have you gotten letters from people who bought a copy of Minkenry and have had success with their personal mink endeavors?

JC:
Yes, though the people who do well are very few and far between. Most of the people who attempt it end up getting frustrated and quitting, or something goes wrong, they lose the mink or something unfortunate happens. It’s not always their fault, it’s just a part of working with mink. They’re a small, finicky and high-maintenance animal

Working with them is very difficult, so the majority of people who end up having success tend to be local to me as I’m physically involved with helping them. But there definitely are people who have done well through my book and a few phone conversations. I’ve had some cool correspondence with people from Germany, France, and around the US who’ve had neat experiences and successes. 

There’s a girl in France who was, for a time, actually out hunting with her mink more than I was! She hunted on leash because she was in the city and didn’t have places where she could safely turn her mink loose. So she had this big long line and she would walk right through downtown Paris with a mink on a leash, hunting rats in the alleys. She’d catch the biggest rats I’ve ever heard of. But frankly, the majority end in failure just because people aren’t persistent enough. With mink you can’t let frustration get the best of you. You have to keep putting in the time.

SJ:
What are some of your ideas for expanding your business?

JC:
One would be offering mink to the public. It’s very common that people call me wanting to get a mink, but I’m very hesitant to help people get mink because most people cannot successfully raise one. As I said earlier, it’s very complicated and time-consuming, and even with all the right information most people fail.

Joseph with baby Rocky at 37 days old
Catching some Zzz's: Rocky relaxes inside at 45 days old

Selling mink could be very lucrative to me, but I don’t feel good about it ethically for two reasons: 1) I feel for the individual animal and I don’t want it to suffer with an owner who doesn’t take care of it properly, but 2) I also feel for the person. I don’t want them to spend lots of money on an animal they don’t enjoy and have a horrible experience with.

A mink could also cause some serious damages and injuries. So I usually try and talk people out of it. I say, “Hey, you probably shouldn’t do this, this is why, read my book very carefully, are you sure you really want to do this?”

But here’s the problem: Because I’m unwilling to help people get mink, what do they do? They find someone who is willing. And there are very unscrupulous people who get into selling animals for nothing but the dollar figure.

Unfortunately I have created these groups of people because I am unwilling to help people get mink most of the time and yet I’m doing all this unintentional advertising for people to get mink. Every time I post a video of a cute mink, someone says, “Oh look, I want one!”

But these unscrupulous dealers don’t care how responsible you are or how prepared you are. Not only are they selling to ignorant people, they themselves are completely ignorant about mink too. There are some pretty horrible diseases that are common on mink farms, and they don’t even know to ask about them, so they could easily be selling diseased animals.

If I were to do it, I would carefully pick individual animals with proper health and temperaments, and then I would sell only to people who were as educated and prepared as I could help them be. I’m never going to fix it, but I would like to curb the problem of irresponsible mink sales by being the person my followers get mink from.  

Unfortunately I’ve done all the vetting and running people through the ringer before, and often it still doesn’t work out. I really want minkeners and mink to have good experiences, so even though it would be a great source of income, I’m not excited about the frustrations and complications that I’ll run into by sourcing mink.

What I could really see myself doing is training and hiring different apprentices to do what I do. That’s a more reasonable path forward because I end up working with a lot of young men as it is, training them to work with mink. I could really raise up some of those younger guys who don’t already have a career and a family, and teach them to do what I do and then go out and do it independently. 

I can see myself eventually having a crew of guys who have a crew of mink and dogs who go out and do jobs. It could be locally or even across the country. Either way, getting more people in the pest control community educated on how to work with mink and helping them actually do it through some kind of organized company or club type atmosphere would be great.

Fan art recreation of Joseph's Minkenry logo

SJ:
You have now turned your home into a mink sanctuary—‘Minkland as you call it—where your mink can run loose, play with each other and engage in a number of interesting apparatuses. You have accomplished things no one has even thought to try. What inspires your visionary drive?

JC:
For me, the intrigue is being a forerunner, being a pioneer in something. That excites me more than just being another guy doing the same old thing. And it’s not about showing off, it’s more for me. I could go off in the forest all alone, have nobody know my name, and I would be just as excited about being the first person ever to hunt with a badger, as I would doing it in the public eye or on TV, which is basically where I’m at now with my YouTube. 

But I don’t need that. Being famous doesn’t excite me or interest me. Whether people give me acknowledgement or not doesn’t change my interest one bit. It’s just being able to do it and say to myself, “Hey, I did it! It’s possible!”

Rising McDowell for the Shakti Journal:
If you could go back to the Joseph Carter who had just gotten his first mink, what would you tell him?

Joseph Carter the Mink Man:
Well, my first mink was just a casual curiosity. It wasn’t a passion—my main passion was falconry. So I would tell him, “Drop falconry,” (and my little kid self would say, “Screw you dude, that’s what I do!”) But I would say, “Sure it’s cool, but can’t even imagine how exciting this is going to be. You’re about to take on an endeavor that’s never been done. Teach that thing to go catch something and bring it back to you, and you’ve just done something no one’s ever done before. Figure that out and start on that first. It’s going to be super hard and super frustrating, but super worth it.”

Why is it worth it? No one in the world really cares. People get excited about all kinds of things in my videos—rarely do they get excited that a mink brought something back. I didn’t even realize that was something I needed or wanted my mink to do until I had been working with them for years. But now I know what a useful skill that is, and how difficult it is to teach, and when I see that happen that’s the real gem.

If I really had to boil it down, I would just tell myself, “Take this more seriously. This is going to be your life’s work.”

A life well lived: Joseph holds Black Mamba as she shows off her catch from the day's hunting practice

As Joseph’s work with mink grows ever more successful, people around the world are changing their ideas about what is possible in the realm of training wild animals to work with us. As I’ve followed his endeavors over the last couple years, I have been amazed with the new developments and successes he has continually created for himself and the world of animal work.

Keep an eye out for The Mink Man: chances are, inventing the art of Minkenry won’t be the last groundbreaking thing Joseph Carter does, because lately he’s taken an interest in badgers…

Learn more about minkenry and the life of Joseph Carter the Mink Man at following links:

Joseph Carter the Mink Man on YouTube:
www.youtube.com/user/josephdcarter


Exclusive video content on Joseph’s Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/180076/


Mink Man on Instagram:
www.instagram.com/joseph_carter_the_mink_man


Mink Man on Facebook:
Minkenry and Joseph Carter the Mink Man


Find Joseph’s book, The New Sport of Minkenry, and other mink merch on Shopify:
https://the-mink-man.myshopify.com