I would like to tell you that this image is as cute as it looks.
This creature, I am fairly sure, is a fisher cat, Martes pennanti. My neighbors have reported occasional sightings of these reclusive predators in their yards, and I had seen prints through my own yard that seemed to be the right size, but this is the first time I have ever seen one. Sadly, sometimes the only way to get a good look at a wild animal is after it has died. And this, I am sorry to say, is a dead fisher cat. I spotted it a couple of miles from home as I was en route to the weekly grocery outing, and I returned for a closer look at mid-day, having traded the toddler for the camera.
The fisher cat was a casualty of a car, no doubt. There is a small amount of blood in the following images, so if you are sensitive to such things, you may want to skip this post.
From this angle, its weasel heritage is quite apparent. She - as I assume this one is female, by its smaller size - is about three feet long. Three feet may sound tiny, but when I got up close to her and saw no obvious indication that she was dead, I stood and looked a long while for any hint that she might spring back to life. This is not a wild animal that I would want to get close to while alive. I hear that they can be quite fearsome in life - and the build of this creature is magnificently ferocious.
Look at those teeth, and those giant paws! Note, too, that her nose is still moist, and the blood has neither clotted nor frozen. The poor thing hadn't been dead long. It pains me to think that she have been lying there, still alive but suffering, as I did my grocery shopping.
I looked long and hard for evidence of breathing, or any twitch in that eye. I wanted to be sure that she was beyond suffering.
The paws are massive compared to the fisher's body, giving it a formidable bear-like appearance - and they are tipped with a cat's nasty curved claws. Size-wise, the feet are unmistakably larger than a cat's, but smaller than that of a coyote. Now that I have seen them, I'll be able to more correctly identify the prints in my yard.
A hundred years ago fishers were hunted to near extinction in their southern ranges due to demand for their furs - particularly in New England. And I can see why. Her fur looked fantastically warm, and begged to be touched.
If nothing else, I learned a bit about these beautiful animals while researching this post. Fisher cats prefer old-growth forests, particularly when there are rotting logs about. I can't provide the former, but we do have an excess of logs left over from the oak tree. I'll have Chris put them out in the woods to make our landscape a more suitable habitat.
Rest in peace beautiful creature.