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Question
Having lived in the Sequoia National Forest for 28 years, I have never before seen the animal I watched this morning around 11 AM. The white snow made a stark contrast with the dark, sleek body of this animal.  There is a creek about 50 feet from my window, and the animal was romping in the snow on the creek bank.  It appeared taller and longer than a weasel, a stoat, or a domestic cat.  Strangely, it's body shape seemed most similar to that of a mongoose.  It actually appeared about the size of a white-tailed mongoose with a similarly shaped long tail arching above the hind legs, dropping to the ground, and curling upward at the tip. (I realize the mongoose is not found on this continent; I only use it for comparison sake.)  The animal's coloring appeared entirely black or at least very dark with no white or light colored markings.  

Would you have any idea what animal I may have seen in this area of the world? I'm so sorry I could not grab my camera in time.  Thanks for any insight you may provide on this mystery critter!

Answer
Dear Colleen,

My guess would be a Pacific Fisher, which is a denizen of your neck of the woods.  You can see pictures here for comparison:

http://tinyurl.com/akgc3ly

Fierce predators, and can be dangerous to small pets and even very small children.  Good to be aware.

Fun to see them, though. They are beautiful animals.

Dana  

Wild Animals

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I'm an evolutionary biologist with a passion for animals. Ask about natural history, behavior, ecology, evolution. PLEASE NOTE:

If you have found an "orphaned" or injured wild animal or bird:
Please don't waste time asking questions on the internet, as the answers may come too late. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMAL, and DO NOT HANDLE IT unless it is in imminent danger. (Many wild "orphans" are not orphans at all!) If you are absolutely sure it is orphaned, keep it warm and quiet, and find a LICENSED WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR HERE. Don't try to raise a baby yourself, or rehabilitate an injured anmal. Many a well-intentioned rescuer will do more harm than good, especially with baby birds and baby rabbits.

I.D. OF MYSTERY ANIMALS
Without geographic location, time of day and habitat, I can't help. A clear picture is always best.

I.D. OF MYSTERY ANIMAL SOUNDS
It's impossible for me to I.D. an animal call without hearing it myself.

COMPARATIVE STRENGTHS
I'm not an expert on comparative strengths of different animals (more complicated than you might think!) nor bite forces.

FIGHTING ANIMALS
I refuse to answer "Which of these two animals--X or X--would win in a fight?".

These hypothetical matchups range from impossible (Grizzly Bears and Gorillas don't even occupy the same continent.) to ridiculous (Someone asked me "Who would win a fight between a Great White Shark and a tiger?").

The vast majority of animals--even the fierce and powerful--are not as warlike as Homo sapiens, and it's childish to project our aggressiveness onto them.

Experience

I have been the fortunate caregiver to a group of Black-tailed Jackrabbits rescued from the Miami International Airport, and not releasable in this area because they are not native. I also have rehabbed and released Eastern Cottontails, and am in contact with many very experienced wildlife rescuers who regularly handle injured or orphaned rabbits and hares.

Organizations
House Rabbit Society

Publications
Exotic DVM journal

Education/Credentials
I have a Ph.D. in Biology, with main areas of expertise in evolutionary biology, genetics, botany, and ecology.

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