It's hard to believe this floof beast is even real, but dreams do come true. That's it now ... look into those beady eyes and let your worries wash away.


This tree-stump stowaway was caught on film by Michigan local Chris Cooper back in 2010. 

Chances are you've seen an ermine (Mustela erminea) before – remember the woodpecker-riding weasel? – but you're just not used to seeing one sporting its winter pelage.

Also known as stoats or short-tailed weasels, these animals turn white to blend in against a snowy backdrop. It's so effective that they're extremely difficult to see during the colder months. (A brief pause while you test your eyes against the ermine's camouflage). A built-in invisibility cloak is particularly important when your predators hunt from on high. 

So what was this one doing in the tree? It's hard to say for sure, but it was likely denning there. Tree stumps make particularly good nest boxes for weasels, as do holes in river banks:

But it's also possible that this guy was busy with other ermine enterprises, and ferreted itself away only when Cooper approached. Perhaps another animal had been nesting in the stump, and this little shredder followed it inside. 

Don't let those big blues fool you: ermines are fierce, skilled hunters. They can leap nearly three times their body length, and run up to eight miles per hour in short stints (for a bit of perspective, that's the equivalent of a human running at about 44mph).

Being fast and agile means the small mustelids can chow down on a wide variety of forest dwellers. The bulk of their diet is made up of other mammals – mice, voles and chipmunks (to name a few) – but birds and amphibians also feature on the menu. An ermine may travel more than two kilometres on a single hunting trip, but once a target is spotted, it doesn't stand much of a chance. After getting as close to its prey as possible, the ermine will charge, pounce and deliver a swift bite to the neck. They're able to take down prey as large as rabbits in this way! (Somewhere along the line, the internet also concocted a myth about blood-sucking stoats. In reality, these animals don't suck blood, but they will often lick it from the wounds of their prey before feeding on the meat and internal organs.)

During the harsh winter months, stoat survival means eating up to 32 percent of their body weight in food each day, so carrion will sometimes fill the gap when prey is scarce. Feeling brave? See for yourself:


Top header image: Gillfoto, Flickr