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Monday, December 20, 2010

Iskus the Weasel








Most every winter I have lived in the woods, I share my woodshed with a weasel.  Beauty, terror and bloodshed are embodied in this mammal perfectly evolved to live in a challenging winter environment of snow and cold.  Equipped with disproportionately large feet (see first photo), weasels can move over and under snow with blinding speed and ease, literally swimming under and through it, popping up in the most unexpected places in their ceaseless pursuit of the small mammals such as voles (Red-backed Vole in second photo), chipmunks and squirrels, upon which they feed.  Similar to some bats, weasels have modified bifurcated structure of the external ears for improved capture and precise location of the slightest sound.  Hearing enhancements combined with outstanding vision and a connoisseur's nose for searching out living protein have made each encounter with a weasel an unforgettable event in my life. 


The Mi’kmaq word for weasel is "Iskus."  One of Glooscap's three lessons that he taught all creatures of the earth, was how to catch a weasel.  To read a short humorous account of this legend go to:  http://www.fairy-tale.info/index.php/action_show_id_NDl8PDwmPj58NTJ8PDwmPj58NTN8PDwmPj58.html For an interesting Mi’kmaq legend about how two weasel women, or "Skusi'skwaq" find and marry their 'star' husbands, check out: http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/aborig/storytel/mi%27k2eng.shtml

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