Animal Alert: What Is This Critter?
I called Archer to the window when I spotted a ferret-like creature on our floating dock. Our lake (which was dug out when I was a kid and is really more like a pond) is about 100 yards from our house, so we grabbed binoculars and watched the furry, dark brown creature dive into the water and disappear for a few minutes. Some ripples around the dock hinted that he might be hiding underneath it.
When the critter slithered with an almost snakelike movement back up onto the dock, we guessed that it was about 2 feet long. It had a narrow tail that was about a third the length of its body. It's tiny head bobbed on a long neck. "It's definitely not a beaver or an otter," said Archer, who happens to be very interested in swimming mammals and has spent an inordinate amount of time studying them in the Hall of Small Mammals at the Museum of Natural History. Rodents and weasels are very low on my list of favorite animals, but in this moment there was a big pay-off for all the time we've spent reading the plaques on the those creepy dioramas.
He gasped and whispered, "A mink! It must be a mink!"
I didn't have my zoom lens handy and the skittish animal ran back into the woods when we walked out of the house, so our pictures are too blurry to share. We're pretty sure the creature looked something like my drawing above or the mink below.