Can you see the little ermine in the picture above? Its sparkling eyes rival the sparkles on the fresh fallen snow. It caught my eye this morning as I was walking at sunrise along the Salt Marsh Trail.
In the winter, the stoat’s fur changes from brown to pure white, except for the very tip of its tail, which remains black. During this phase, the stoat is known as an ermine. To see this elusive creature is considered good luck by the Japanese. They are mostly nocturnal but sometimes will show themselves at dusk and dawn.
This ermine had the typical long skinny body of its species and moved very fast. It’s also supposed to be an excellent swimmer. Stoats or ermines are carnivores and would likely find a plentiful supply of food in the marsh: voles, red squirrels, snowshoe hares, birds and fish. They are capable of taking down prey larger than themselves. Stoats are preyed upon by coyotes and foxes. They may be killed by domestic cats if they dare to venture into residential areas.
The tracks above were photographed near the spot where I saw the ermine this morning. This is the first time I’ve seen this little creature in the snow. Seeing it put a sparkle on the whole morning walk.