The Clerk in the Country

Thursday 30th April 2020
Some four-footed neighbours

Crossing the road at speed, close to the post box, was an animal I struggled at first to recognize. The size of a squirrel or a rat, its tail was far too thin for the one, too thick for the other. Like a weasel, its fur was gingery brown, white underneath, but as it dived into the long grass of the verge, I caught the black tip of its tail: a stoat. After many years without seeing one, this is the second I’ve spotted around here in the past couple of months.

Sightings of the much smaller weasel are more frequent; my closest encounter was when a pet cat struggled through the cat flap grasping one by the scruff of the neck. There was a look of desperation in Moppet’s eyes. Having caught what she thought was just an elongated mouse, she found herself clinging on to a fearsome predator, quite capable of inflicting serious damage and writhing and wriggling in an attempt to bite her. It needed a pair of strong gloves to separate the two and send the weasel on its way.

My most memorable encounter with a member of this “family” came several years ago when, driving towards home, my headlights picked out a large, long, low animal at the side of the road. I was able to pull up and watch as it drank from a puddle then, quite unperturbed by my car, turned and trotted across the road and into a clump of trees. The most striking thing was its beautiful glossy brown fur – a mink coat worn, as it should be, by a mink.