Winding up a run in the sodden, glistening Arb this afternoon, I was heading back toward campus along the river trail when I saw a cat-sized brown animal dart across the path ahead of me and up a dead tree. “Weird – a raccoon out at noon?”
I slowed down to look up at the animal, but then stopped when I saw that it had no mask. The little beastie nestled into a vee of two branches and peered down at me with a frank black-eyed look, clearly wishing I’d move along. I walked a couple steps to get a different angle. The creature had a wide, furry body and a long fuzzy tail – the size and shape of a raccoon, but a solid dark brown or black, rather than the grays and light browns of a raccoon. “Weird – a mink? a weasel?” I jogged off to let the whatever-it-was get back to whatever it was doing.
I wondered about the animal all day. When the girls went to bed, I paged therough my Mammals of Minnesota field guide and the Minnesota DNR’s excellent online guide and figured that – based on size, coloration, and the funny look of its eyes – it was a fisher, one of the rarest mammals in Minnesota, and much more common up north.