Stoat!

Stoat: Kennebunk, Maine, USA, June 2022 — Sad story warning! I am pretty sure this is a Stoat, or Short-Tailed Weasel, often called an Ermine in the winter when its coat, with the exception of the black tip of the tail, turns bright white. The only other possibility is the Long-tailed Weasel, which we also have in Maine. I think the white feet, just visible at the front, and the length of the tail make this a Stoat. I will admit, until yesterday I did not know we had Stoats in Maine. This one, as you can see, was sitting exactly in the middle of the road, just a few houses down from us, when I was leaving on my eTirke for a grocery run. I quickly circled back and around to see what it was. I was thinking weasel, or mink, or maybe a young fisher. I was sure it would be gone from the road by the time I got my camera out, but it stayed there, alert but apparently in no hurry to get off the yellow line. It even sat there, unmoving, as a truck and several cars came by, missing it by inches. When I showed my photo to Google Lens, the intelligence in the cloud suggested Stoat, so of course, I had to do more research, and discovered that they are quite common in Maine, even here along the coast. My only other Stoat encounter was in the pages of Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”, where, if you remember, the Stoats and Weasels are cast as the bad guys. As you might imagine, this real-life story did not end well for the Stoat in the middle of the road. Eventually a driver jigged when he or she probably intended to jag, the Stoat panicked and moved off the yellow line, and went under the wheel. With a good deal of sadness (and not a little guilt about what I might have done differently to save the Stoat), I moved it off the road, but it was too late. Later, after discovering it had been a Stoat, in memory of the Stoats of Wild Wood in “The Wind in the Willows”, I took a shovel out and buried it in our own wild wood across the street. While I am sure Stoats are ruthless hunters, and I would not want one in my hen run (if I had a hen run), they are beautiful little creatures, and this one certainly deserved better. And let this be a lesson to all Stoats. Cars do, on occasion, cross the yellow line!

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