A Better Mousetrap

A couple of weeks ago I spent four days at a camp at Moosehead Lake. Did a lot of hunting, a little shooting, and realized that if I had to rely on my skills as a hunter to feed myself I’d be hungry a lot.

But I did encounter an excellent and ferocious little hunter while there. We had all been wondering why the camp, while showing signs of mice infestation, had no mice in evidence. The night before we left, we found out that a ruthlessly efficient predator had been keeping the place clean.


stoat

Devourer of mice and turkey morsels


Apparently, one of Stoaty’s relatives had been making the camp a part of his hunting rounds. As a reward for his fruitful efforts, some of the guys put out a plate of leftover turkey morsels for him, which he quickly stowed in whatever stashes he had established.


stoat

“Better make sure the mice aren’t playing cribbage on my watch.”


Our presence didn’t seem to alarm him as he made his rounds of the camp, through the kitchen and woodpile, in the bunk rooms and even under the chairs we were sitting in.

After some Googling I’m pretty confident in identifying this as a stoat (Mustela erminea), which Wikipedia informs me is “also known as the ermine or short-tailed weasel.” And this guy (or maybe girl, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to lift the tail of something with teeth that sharp) was already dressed in his best winter finery.

I got some more pix of him the next morning as he ripped edibles from the partridge carcasses we had discarded.


stoat

“What? You expect me to stop working and pose for you?”


He was moving pretty quickly, so I was using autofocus, which has its limitations. I got some better quality images than this one that don’t make me try to blink away the blurriness, but this was too good a pose to pass up. One of the carcasses, bigger than he was, got caught in the underbrush as he dragged it away. It didn’t seem to discourage him at all. As we left, he was still happily ripping off pieces of partridge flesh and organs to stash in his various hidey-holes.

I just hope it snows soon. Right now his fur makes him easy pickings for hawks, owls and coyotes.

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