By Vern and Lori Gieger
Weasel out of This
Weasels are quite the characters; their repu–tation precedes them. While they can be quite charming and amusing, overall I believe they could benefit from an attitude adjustment; they are not known for their warmth and gentleness. The long-tail weasel can be found from Canada to Central America. Like their cousins the mink, these small mammals are ferocious, agile, and fearless.
Weasels are quite adaptable animals and are found in a variety of habitats. They are exceptional hunters, approaching silently; they pounce upon their unsuspecting prey in a flash. The presence of weasels almost always indicates substantial rodent populations. Weasels need to consume large quantities of rodents in order to survive. Although they prefer mice, if they are not abundant, weasels will also consume young rats, birds, fish, and insects. Weasels have a high metabolic rate which requires them to be in search of prey during almost all their waking hours. Weasels hunt predominately at night but also will venture out during the day, eating the equivalent of 40 percent or more than their body weight daily.
Weasels have great natural camouflage and are seldom seen, their overall coloration may depend on the specific sub-specie as well as habitat. Weasel are small with very distinct markings. With a tiny masked face, almost looking like a miniature raccoon, a brownish body, and a black tipped tail they are adorable and look quite cuddly. However due to their sharp teeth, finely honed claws, and a nasty attitude, attempting to hold one, even a baby, is the last thing one would want to do!
Their slender bodies allows them to enter small underground burrows, if the head will fit so will the body. This enables the weasel to pursue the animal underground. Often times weasels will move into a den of an animal that it has killed.
The acquisition of a new den comes in handy especially during breeding season. Weasels mate from late summer to mid-winter.
The fertilized embryos undergo an initial development of about two weeks; then, begins a long dormant period. In early spring the embryo becomes implanted in the uterus and development resumes. The young are born about a month later. Two to ten babies are born in a burrow. The nest is lined with fur from animals that the weasel has killed. Not only does the mother need to meet her high nutritional needs, but that of her young as well. The mothers are very nurturing, resulting in a fast and furious pace which allows her only short periods of relaxation. Daily rest time averages only a few hours. In about five weeks the babies eyes open. Young weasels begin to hunt when they are only about seven weeks of age. Typically by the time they are nine to ten weeks of age they are on their own. Weasels are not social and do not form family groups, it’s every weasel for its self.
Weasels are as inquisitive as raccoons. They look under every bush and sneak in every hole. Nature seldom provides a steady source of food. The weasel’s means of survival involves killing whatever it can, whenever it can. When encountering an abundance of mice, the relentless weasel follows the only pattern it knows and will kill more than it can eat at one time. However, their dens usually have an extra chamber they use as a storage area for the surplus of slain mice.
The weasel does not have many friends. Even animals much bigger, do not venture too near. They will boldly confront animals much larger than themselves who come between them and their food. Weasels have been known to battle it out with a bear or attack a porcupine. Talk about a fine line between bravery and stupidity. Weasels have few natural enemies but great horned owls and hawks are agile enough to occasionally catch one. Although, rare, foxes, coyotes, and lynx also kill weasels. The weasels ferociousness and agility make it a fearless hunter’s formidable opponent, but the weasel has one more trick up it’s sleeve, weasels have musk glands similar to a skunks’ and some say it smells worse.