Most of us are not having guests or hosting any sort of gatherings these days, so it was curious that I heard of a recent account of a four-day getaway at a home in West Tisbury.

While there was no wine-ing at the get-together, there was definitely dining with tales of special meals, intimate connections and collegial companionship. The guest was not as happy and grateful as one would expect to be in the company of others, nor was she invited. Instead, she cowered under the deck for the entire stay. She had a beautiful coat, gentle demeanor and was sweet and dear, according to her host, who welcomed her with treats and kind words.

“Though I knew I shouldn’t feed her, I did offer a few things,” the host said.  

The menu of apple bits, raw carrots and cold potatoes (mashed, no salt or butter) was appreciated by the creature which regularly dined on roots and rhizomes.

The caller was a muskrat and the host has asked to remain anonymous as wildlife regulations and best practices discourage the feeding and relocation of wildlife. The days-long adventure in wildlife co-habitation was challenging but seemingly ended well for all parties, regardless of the rule.

Muskrats, sometimes referred to as rats, are semi-aquatic rodents that inhabit many of our wetland and pond areas. They are not well travelled, only moving a few hundred yards away from their den and only a few miles when looking for a new habitat. Perhaps the snowstorm earlier in the week had disoriented this beast and it wandered away from its usual wetlands. Maybe it was as desperate as many of us are for company.

A muskrat under the deck was not an acceptable option, so the host called all around looking for help to remove it. With no responders initially agreeing to assist, she set to work herself, using a crab net to scoop up the muskrat, only to have it escape the shallow net. Food lured the beast out briefly (enough time for a great photos), but it returned to its deck domain.

Finally, an unnamed associate (not sure if an amateur or professional) agreed to assist and brought out the biggest net he could find, captured the creature and brought it to the nearby pond for release. Off it swam, only to head back in their direction, but a quick left turn allowed it to disappear into the marsh.

Upon relating the story, the host would regale me with the ups and downs of the multi-day escapade, sharing her triumphs and tribulations.

“I would be a rotten wildlife person,” she admitted, but credited her mom for her successes, explaining she “had a tender heart for all creatures.”

Though it may have seemed like a muskrat Ritz Carlton, four days under the deck dodging nets doubtless was no picnic. However, the muskrat made for good company and in the time of Covid, aren’t we all a bit desperate for a get-together?

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.