When it comes to incredible native animal species, Maryland has an embarrassment of riches. We have over 100 species of native mammals that grace our forests, meadows, wetlands, and waterways. And while I love ALL of our state’s native mammals, there is one that sets my heart a-flutter. It’s an animal that I have seen only a handful of times in my travels, but each time I see it I’m struck by its appearance. It’s just so…so…CUTE. This mammal has two big, brilliant black eyes set in its tiny, furry little face. It has a delicate pink nose and incredibly soft fur. In fact, when I look at pictures of this animal standing upright on its hind legs, I’m struck by an almost magnetic urge to give it a belly rub.
And that’s when I have to take a step back and remind myself of something really important: this animal is a tiny killing machine, and my hands shouldn’t be anywhere near its belly. This animal – so cute, so fluffy, and so completely psychotic – is the stoat, also known as an ermine or a short-tailed weasel.