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 with Rob Miskosky

The Mighty Ermine

I could hear the pitter patter of tiny feet on the floor of my trapping cabin. The sound wasn’t loud but it was enough to wake me from my sleep. Grabbing my flashlight from the nightstand beside me, I turned it on looking for the intruder. The flashlight’s beam connected with movement near the woodstove; there, standing on hind legs beside my rubber boots stood an ermine, looking directly into the flashlight’s beam just a few feet from where I had previously been snuggled into my sleeping bag. Then, in an instant, the little white intruder jumped up and inside one of my boots, disappearing for just a second before popping its head out, looking back at me from the open hole at the top of my boot.

This ermine is investigating the contents of a plastic bag outside the author’s cabin door.

Now, having an ermine inside your cabin isn’t a bad thing; in fact, their presence is welcomed. If you have an ermine hanging around your cabin, guaranteed you won’t have a single mouse, as the ermine is a crafty and very good hunter of the messy little rodents. But having one in your cabin while you’re sleeping is an uncomfortable feeling. The ermine is possibly the bravest of all the weasel family and to suggest one wouldn’t enter your sleeping bag while you slept would be foolish. For this reason, I fired one of my slippers in the ermine’s direction, hoping he’d leave the way he’d entered, but I missed to the left of my boot. The ermine popped back down inside. A second slipper found the boot and suddenly, the ermine was no longer in the boot; instead, it was now racing around my cabin, probably pissed at me!

Sitting at the kitchen table with my rubber boots now on my feet (better than bare feet when an ermine is running around), retrieved slippers in hand and lantern lit, all I was seeing was flashes of white from different locations around the cabin. First, under the bed, then along the counter, then behind the propane stove, then under the wood stove... watching and hoping for another slipper shot was the best I could do – ermine are fast! There I was, sitting in my underwear with rubber boots on hoping I could rid myself of the little sharp-toothed predator that had invaded my cabin in the middle of the night.

Then, all went silent. I had been waiting with slipper at the ready... but now there was nothing. About five minutes went by without any sign of the intruder. Thinking it had left, I took off my rubber boots and was about to enter the warmth of my sleeping bag when it (the sleeping bag) suddenly moved! Then, out from under my sleeping bag popped a white head with two beady black eyes staring right back at me from less than two feet away! Now it was my time to be pissed! I grabbed my slippers and started whacking the top of the sleeping bag trying to hit the ermine underneath while screaming and hollering at it, even though I had no idea where it really was; I just knew that now I really wanted it gone!

I guess all of the commotion must have got to the little bugger because I saw him disappear under the propane stove and never saw him again that night; however, my sleep was a restless one.

I’ve always been fascinated with furbearing animals, especially those of the weasel family, which includes everything from the tiny least weasel through to the wolverine. Even the river otter is a member of the weasel family. But my favourite by far is the ermine, or short-tailed weasel. Their tenacity, fearless disposition, and cunning ability to kill are something to behold.

I have had other ermine in the cabin since that night, and I still don’t like the idea of sleeping when one visits. Having said that, I’m sure I’ve had company without knowing it on more than one occasion.

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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