I was sitting at my picnic table by the pond. All was quiet, peaceful – my respite from the day, watching the fish, frogs, a muskrat family, birds, turtles and my cat, Breezy, nearby patrolling the yard for tiny intruders with gray fur and four legs.
I noticed a branch movement on the other side of the pond that whispered something was there and I felt an undertone of “not normal, keep watching”. The pond now had my full attention. And there it was…the frogs and turtles were leaping into the water. Not something they normally did with a muskrat near. So this was the signal an enemy must be close. “Keep watching”, I told myself. “Don’t miss this. A bird? They like frogs. No, only those close leap in when a blue heron is hunting, not the whole end of the pond. Keep watching.”
Then it came out into the open by the water’s edge – a mink! It was onto a scent and darted in and out of the weeds by the edge looking for the den of the muskrats. It was searching quickly, focused, unaware I was watching. It found it!
The baby muskrat flew out of the den landing on top of the water and continued to make splashing noises as piercing as it could. This was the call to mom for help. She heard it and came racing out of the bushes, leaping into the pond to her baby, the whole time making distressing sounds. She swam so fast she was by the side of her youngster in seconds, who stayed put in the middle of the pond while mom took off after the mink. She anxiously switched back and forth in the water, searching the water’s edge. She spotted him! (I didn’t know a muskrat could move so fast!). She was out of the water and lunging into the bush with lightening speed and screeching sounds. The mink knew to run, but he wasn’t going to give up yet.
He moved around the end of the pond probing for a new way to get to the baby. And mom followed his every move from within the water, daring him to enter her space. In the mean time, Breezy, the skilled hunter, came over to me to investigate the commotion, and the mink, so focused on the muskrat, is heading right towards us.
Breezy spots the mink and slinks along the land side of him. Now he’s trapped between the cat on land and muskrat in the water. The mink keeps working his way along the edge, still searching for his break at getting lunch, but Breezy and the muskrat work together to keep him trapped, both of them cautiously working their way closer to him. The mink has made it all the way to the other side, now right next to me, who he still has not noticed.
I stood. The mink darts into a small indent by a drainage pipe which gives him some shelter and safety. He was there for several minutes assessing his situation – a cat and a person on two side of him blocking his escape on land, and a ferocious sounding muskrat two feet away in the water. What happened next is the most shocking part.
The mink let out the loudest, most blood curdling scream I’ve ever heard! And the pond instantly went back to normal. The cat walked away as if bored. The muskrat left to be with her baby. The frogs went back to their bug catching stations. The turtles returned to sunbathing on the dock. The peaceful scene was back. The mink waited in its safe spot for awhile, then slowly left for parts unknown and all the critters obviously felt safe from any further attacks from either side of this dispute.
I was so impressed by the knowledge that all the critters of the pond instinctively had. They knew that the mink’s scream meant he had given up and they were safe. The mink knew he was trapped and kept himself safe by giving the “you win” signal, and stayed true to his “word” that his hunt was over. At that instant the entire pond was on the same page…including the domestic cat! They all knew how to read the energy, except for the observing human, who was sitting there in total awe of this cooperative between predators and prey. There are so many lessons here, they’re hard to count. I’ll let you get what you need to discover from it on your own. Enjoy!