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The Lost Ermine

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My ermine with a weasel for scale

Can’t resist a slight note of frustration at coming across a picture from 2011 of the first ermine I ever caught on the Chayne. It was a tremendous curiosity at the time, and with only the slightest brown spectacles around her eyes, the female stoat was almost pure white. The huge majority of the stoats I catch are male (by a factor of 9:1) so she was also memorable for her sex as well as her small size. My diary notes that she was 11 inches from nose to tail, while the average female on my patch is more like 13 inches long. By way of comparison, the biggest male I’ve ever caught was 19.5″ and weighed a pound.

Determined not to see the gorgeous ermine go to waste, I sent her to a taxidermist I found online along with a cheque to cover a deposit and while I received confirmation of receipt, I never heard another word from him, despite several frustrated prods and pokes. I have learnt my lesson, but the great pity is that I have never even seen a living stoat as beautiful or as white as this one, let alone have a close look at it.

Bugger.

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1 thought on “The Lost Ermine”

  1. Hi Patrick,

    Read this a few days back and it has been playing on my mind some. My immediate reaction was that such an animal (any animal) looks better alive than stuffed. Perhaps you shouldn’t mourn the loss of your prize specimen; it’s pelt is probably now adorning a royal robe having been sold on to Ede and Ravenscroft. Never mind.

    I wasn’t going to bother commenting but your story did remind me of the last time I saw an Ermine, so I thought I’d share the tale… I was enjoying the last rays of sun outside the Mittlenbärghütte in the Swiss Alps. It was late March 2012 and we were ski touring. Arriving there via an exciting climb and descent over the pass from Italy earlier that afternoon I then settled down to the usual chores of drying climbing-skins, checking ski bases, airing boot inners. Having finished these, I’d parked my butt on a patch of snow-free grass to watch the lengthening shadows when a flash of white caught my eye among the jumble of rocks behind the hut. I scanned the rocks for a while and sure enough soon spotted the ermine scrambling rapidly about over and up and in between boulders and up the cliff face. It must’ve climbed about 20m up the more of less sheer rock buttress via a circuitous route that I couldn’t quite follow properly from my vantage point before it disappeared over the top and was gone. I guess it was hunting, though for what I’ve no idea. May be the mice or birds that are usually attracted to mountain huts by the odd food scraps we inevitably drop or throw out? Anyway, it was a beautiful sight and a pleasure to share the evening with. I don’t suppose it paid me any attention, but I went to my bed happy to have seen it, and I’ll go to bed happy now thinking it might still be up there. Alive.

    A couple of photos on: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildlandresearch/
    Sadly not of the Ermine which was way too quick and too far away.

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