For the ‘dangerous jobs’ list: studying mustelids play

13 01 2015

Couple of gems from Jamie’s latest thesis chapter on the development of mink play:

‘Aggressive behavior in mink (Mustela vison) has almost always been expressed in emotional and anthropomorphic terms or, at best, in very general terms. Seton (1926) used words such as “savage,” “demon,” and “incarnation of fury” to describe the temperament of mink. Errington (1961) recognized this tendency and deplored the ” judging of mink according to human standards.” ‘ (Me: hear hear)


‘Comment: I finally found out how Trevor Poole figured out the biting was inhibited in play… He had a tame polecat he’d raised in his house for two years, and sometimes would play with him with his hand. The polecat would bite him, but not that hard, unless they’d get really excited and rough, in which case the bites could be painful. But then one day he smeared his other hand in blood and held a small piece of meat out to the polecat, and he right away bit him harder than he ever had before. Wow. Poole’s papers are hilarious.’  (Me: do NOT try this, fellow mink researchers).