Among the things we like to think set humans apart from other animals is our use of fire. This allows us to cook our food, making it more palatable and digestible. But is this really uniquely human? An incident at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery provides evidence to the contrary.
Then-hatchery manager James Civiello was driving home from a conference. Every time he stopped, he got a whiff of a familiar smell. He did not remember using his vehicle to transport fish food, but the smell was so persistent that he looked behind the seats for spilled fish chow. Finding none, he continued his drive, growing more baffled mile after smelly mile.
As he pulled into his office, he noticed a small trout lying on the pavement at the front of his parking spot. Wondering if the fish might have come from his truck, he popped the hood and found a dozen or so 6-inch rainbow trout carefully arranged atop the engine, now baked to a pleasing golden brown.
An uncomfortable few days passed as Civiello tried in vain to figure out which of his coworkers might have played such a distasteful practical joke. Then, as he checked the trout hatchery’s raceways one morning, he apprehended the culprit.
Apparently a mink with a discriminating palate had discovered that trout laid on just the right spot atop Civiello’s engine became wonderfully tender and developed an irresistible eu de Valvoline.
Civiello reports that parking his truck in a different location for a month solved the problem. Asked if he didn’t mind the mink stealing a few trout, Civiello replied, “Nope. They have to steal more than that before we consider trapping them. Most of the time we are feeding lots of different animals.”