Posted by: dougery | June 10, 2011

The Stoats Nextdoor

The last thing I wanted to do yesterday evening was drive home from work and clean the house. Yet L and I are heading up to VT for the weekend and we’re having someone drop by to feed the cats and it is probably poor form to have tumbleweeds of cat hair drifting down the hallway. So we vacuumed and mopped and scrubbed and spritzed. All the while Rihanna or the Avalanches or whatever were blaring on L’s laptop. And even still I heard what I first thought was a bird trapped in the other side of the farmhouse.

I went down the hallway that leads to the other side, which we’ve barricaded with a large bookcase so as not to confuse guests that, say, there’s a bathroom on the other side of the door and not a gigantic half-finished kitchen, and saw that our fatter, greedier and much more clever cat was very interested in what lay on the other side of said bookcase and door. The chirping was louder now, but something about it made me think squirrel or animal instead of bird. Either way I was going to have to check things out.

I walked around outside and entered the side door, careful to be quiet and not have a cornered squirrel leap up and rip my face off. You think I’m joking but there is very little funny about a cornered squirrel. Those things are basically a bunch of needle teeth and tiny scalpel claws and they can jump 8 feet up in the air with ease. I rounded the interior door, the chirping louder still and saw a bit of brown fur and doubled back. Not good. Trapped animal. Best get the landlord.

The landlord in this case lives 30 yards away. I jogged the short bit of paving stones and knocked on the door playing the “just wanted to let you know I heard and went over and blah blah blah I’m not trespassing card” rather than the “I’m a bit of coward here and need back-up and a more experienced animal let-er out-er” card. She and her daughter came down and we headed over.

Daughter, in wilderness training at summer college and brandishing a spade, led the way. No sooner had she stepped in side the future kitchen then I heard a soul-crushing

“Aaaaawwwwwwwwww!”

Turns out there were 2 baby somethings cuddling and rough-housing and chirping. No bigger than small brown hamsters with eyes barely open and bright white bellies and inch long dark black furry tails. Now as cute and adorable and heart meltingly kittenish as they were, our landlord couldn’t exactly keep them inside. We gathered them up, L discovering a 3rd then a 4th in various hidden spots (behind stacked paint cans in a cupboard and inside a pilaster that wraps around a plumbing duct. Meanwhile we were doing wiki research and googling various things trying to figure out what these little guys were. There were certainly in the weasel family but out where we were there are plenty of odd species that aren’t all that common. Turns out we’re 99% sure they are stoats.

In the end, whenever mankind and nature mix there is unfortunate sadness. The kits looked and acted far too young to take care of themselves on their own but needed to be out of the house. An animal rescue shelter would be able to do very little besides take these little guys away from their Mom. Either Mom Stoat would find them and take care of them or our scents, even through gloved hands, would make her abandon them. Or even worse, we might have just gave one of the great many other predators a very tasty and easy meal.

This morning I saw Mom Stoat about 20 yards from the house, standing near the brook on her back legs, about a foot tall, a real skinny elongated kind of hamster. Our landlord and her daughter were over on the other side, probably making sure the coast was still clear. Stoats are actually very helpful to have around, as long as you aren’t raising chickens, since they eat a ton of mice and voles and other varmints. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.

Watching: Mad Men S4

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Responses

  1. Are you making this up?? I never heard of a stoat before.

  2. it’s basically just a weasel with a meanstreak.

    I did a little research on it because I am a huge nature nerd and was struck by one thing in particular. Their reproductive cycle is like something out of science fiction. Basically, they mate, the fertilized eggs develop to about 200 cells and then stop maturing for like 8 or 9 months. Among other things, this allows for baby stoats, 2 to 3 weeks old, ones that don’t even have their eyes open yet, to mate, get fertilized and *then* grow up, and then 9 months later when the kit is mature the embryos begin to develop like they would in most mammals. So freaking bizarre.


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