Animal Magnetism
How Mad Is that Fouine in the Window?

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Fouine / stone marten watching the Fourmilab servers

In August 2002 I was out in the Fourmilab driveway with my digital camera on a tripod making long, full aperture exposures in the hope of catching a Perseid meteor when I heard several yer-skrawwwk! cries which sounded like they were coming from the computer room I was just outside. This was disturbing: the last thing you need is a hard drive crash you can hear from outside the building or, even worse, a cat fight in the Hall of the Servers. I decided to abandon my night vision adaptation in the interest of finding out what was going on, popped into the Hall, and what should I see looking at me through the window but a fouine or stone marten (Martes foina).

Fouine are cat-sized weasels ubiquitous in Central Europe. They thrive in rural and suburban areas as well as the wild, much like raccoons in the Western Hemisphere. They eat anything that moves, including other fouine who try to horn into their territory. Fouine are notorious for eating the insulation off ignition wires in automobiles: our cars have been “fouined” three times in the last ten years, despite regular spraying with fouine repellent. They are well-equipped in the tooth and claw department and extremely aggressive; they're related to North American wolverines; you do not want to get onto the wrong side of one of these fellows.

This fouine couldn't care less about me. I took a dozen photos, with and without flash, and it was as curious about me as I was about it. I also took a number of pictures of this bad actor with the young fouine s/he'd killed during the fight which attracted my attention. I'll spare you those.

This photo was taken by John Walker on August 14th, 2002 in the Fourmilab Hall of the Servers with an Olympus C-3040 digital camera with flash and automatic exposure mode.

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by John Walker
July 10th, 2003
This document is in the public domain.