Surprise Encounter of the Minky Kind

I have—half-jokingly—stated that, if I were God, I would have ordered things differently. While I’m in awe of Nature’s intricate, interwoven, and complex structure and finely tuned function, I have never liked the fact that animals eat one another. Even as a child I closed my eyes when nature documentaries focused in on the “successful” outcome of a hunt, a predator slaying its prey. In my ideal world, we would all be herbivores. Or better yet, like plants, we would be autotrophs, able to nourish ourselves simply by inhaling carbon dioxide and absorbing the energy of the sun, before transforming them into food. And in the process, create oxygen as a byproduct.

I know that “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s chloroplasts” is good advice and yet I must confess to full-blown chlorophyll envy. Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge or floating lazily on a pond, I could be doing the work of the world while standing silent in the sun. 

From “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The mere mention of my utopia has resulted in various reactions, ranging from approbation to condemnation and severe censure. I have been accused of arrogance, condescension, or worse. Even or especially by naturalists, some of whom seem to think that to question the world order is sacrilegious.

I beg to differ. One can love Nature and still question some of her workings. Feeling sadness for the suffering of one’s own or of related species, being empathetic, is a hallmark of being human.

Last summer I unexpectedly came across a horde of mink at one of my favorite regional destinations, Manitou Lake in neighboring Teller County (also the topic of several previous posts: Dr. Bell’s Retreat, Soul Time, and Serenity Lake). I enjoyed watching what appeared to be a family group comprised of 4 to 5 members (try as I might, I was unable to capture all of them in one picture frame). They were in a playful mood, chasing and rolling on top of one another, while chattering in soft tones.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. 

I was amazed to be privy to their antics, but my initial joy at seeing them turned into melancholy when it became evident that what appeared like play was not so for one unfortunate bog dweller, whose life ended at that point.

RIP, little frog. I understand that you are part of the mysterious web of life and death, but if I had any say in the matter, you would still be alive.

35 thoughts on “Surprise Encounter of the Minky Kind

  1. Thank you, Tanja, for sharing such a thought-provoking post. I have mixed feelings on this issue, and while I too may sometimes avert my eyes when predators do their stuff I can also accept that Nature “is what it is.” I don’t have to like predation to accept that it has to happen in a self-regulating ecosystem. On which point, your autotrophic utopia would presumably include some form of inbuilt contraceptive mechanism to prevent the rapidly expanding population of herbivores over-grazing their environment and – ultimately – suffering the misery of starvation! Somewhere, in a parallel universe, maybe…?

    What really distresses me, however, is predators in the wrong place. Mink, for example. Mink are not native to the British Isles, but we have a large, self-sustaining feral population due to the actions of well-meaning (but environmentally naïve) animal rights activists who released them from fur farms several decades ago. The feral mink have driven our native water vole to the brink of extinction, as well as seriously damaging populations of waterfowl, ground-nesting birds and amphibians. Mink are highly effective predators that have their place as part of a balanced eco-system. I’ve been pleased to spot them in North America (though never in the numbers captured in your compelling photos!), but they simply don’t belong here.

    Such a complex, emotionally-charged issue. I could go on about it for hours… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I completely sympathize with your point of view. I, too, hate to see animals killing each other, even though I know that’s how they make their living. And, as Platypus Man noted, maintain a kind of balance in the natural world. I’m mostly vegan, and I dread the day when we find out that plants have feelings and a kind of consciousness.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was admiring a flock of birds foraging on the ground when a hawk swept down and stole one away. I remember feeling shock, repulsion, and then recognition that this was also part of nature. Good shots.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mink! How cool! I’ve never seen one.

    I too often like to live in denial of the fact that animals eat one another. It makes me sad to see, despite knowing that it’s necessary for their survival (and is a part of my survival too). If I could photosynthesize, though, I would very much miss eating food.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I share your feelings, but Platypus Man makes a good point. As in all things it seems we need to find some balance. I’m afraid that us humans have lost sight of that far too much.
    Looks like we share a delight in the words and works by Kimmerer. My mind is not remembering as well as it once did. I just recently read “Braiding Sweetgrass” and I know I delighted in it, but sadly I’m not retaining much of it… except:
    “Something is broken when the food comes on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in slippery plastic, a carcass of a being whose only chance at life was a cramped cage. That is not a gift of life; it is a theft.”
    ― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

    [Funny how I had the mink in my last post and if I get my act together, my next post should have the owl who snagged a Junco in our backyard!] 🥴

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for sharing a terrific photographic series!

    Your ideal world sounds great!

    I think our perspective on Nature, indeed, about life in general, is founded during our formative years. Those of us raised on a farm or ranch were involved first-hand in producing animals for food. The opposite end of that spectrum are those who grew up in an urban environment and perhaps had no idea where their food came from.

    We all have different beliefs and unique cultural experiences.

    It’s a tough thing (for me, an avowed carnivore) to watch an alligator consume a beautiful Roseate Spoonbill. Nature is Nature. I may chronicle the event, but I don’t have to like it!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A thought-provoking post, Tanja. I have often wondered why the world is set up for creatures to survive by eating each other. And (supposedly) God created the world in seven days? Proof positive that s/he should have slowed down ant thought A LOT more about it, before acting! 😉
    I did get a chuckle seeing the “minky” pics however. One day at the Audubon I was so focused on getting pics of ducks, that I failed to notice minks scooting around right in front of me. So mischievous and playful!
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
    Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I first began truly paying attention to the goings-on in nature, there were things that disturbed me: like watching a mother mallard’s seventeen babies disappear one by one until only four or five remained. On the other hand, if every baby mallard survived, we’d be up to our hips in ducks. Multiply that by the number of species in the world, and the problems become obvious.

    I must say, the desire to become chlorophyll seems odd to me at best. Of course, I’m rather fond of being human, with all of the pluses and minuses that come along with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well written actually we all are dependent on each other for food. So one will be the food of other. Nice photos thanks for sharing 🙂😊🥰

    Like

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