Weasel Wednesday

Sometimes when you go birding you don’t find what you hope to see.  But sometimes you see something unexpected that is just as great.  And sometimes it’s not even a bird.

Last Saturday the Friends of Fish Creek Society birders explored the Votier’s Flats area of Fish Creek Park.  Our goal was to find a Northern Pygmy-Owl, which is always a treat to see, and which several members of the group had never seen.  The owl has not yet been reported in the park this fall but in the last few years it has first been sighted at about this time.

We didn’t find an owl, but someone spotted a writhing mass at the side of the path that turned out to be a family of Least Weasels – a mother with eight young.

Photo by Dan Arndt

The nine little mammals moved through the undergrowth in a mass, over and under each other, but always in contact.  In his report on Albertabird, Gus Yaki described them as “travelling together so close that they seemed to be a single organism.”  Pat Bumstead says that they probably were making one of their first forays outside their natal den, and were exploring their surroundings.

Photo by Wayne Walker

The mother crossed the trail near us, and the young separated amongst our feet.  They showed no fear of us.  I put my hand down, and briefly had one in my gloved hand.  The shots below show just how small Least Weasels are.  These young are as big as an adult, or nearly so.

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

The juveniles eventually crossed the trail to reunite with their mother.

Photo by Dan Arndt

Although they are impossibly cute, weasels are carnivores, capable of killing animals many times their size.  In these photos they show off their teeth.

Photo  by Wayne Walker

Photo by Anne Elliott

We were very lucky to see such an amazing sight.  If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of looking at these little guys, so below there are some more pictures for you to enjoy.

(To see an additional Birdscalgary post about another species of weasel, click here.)

(To see a YouTube video that uses some of these pictures, with music, click below:)

YouTube Preview Image

Here are the rest of the photos:

 

Photo by Dan Arndt

Photo by Dan Arndt

Photo by Anne Elliott

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Photo by Wayne Walker

Thanks to the three photographers who contributed these great pictures:  Wayne Walker, Dan Arndt, and Anne Elliott.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

41 thoughts on “Weasel Wednesday

  1. Pingback: Ferrets for Couldbe! - Page 8 - SLUniverse Forums

  2. Pingback: Furry Friday: More Weasels | Birds Calgary

  3. My Dad just found a Least Weasel running around the road. We took him home and cared for him but he died. Pip (that’s his name) looks like the weasels you found!

    R.I.P Pip

  4. We back onto a forest and I just saw a red Weasel! It was so cute and beautiful. I wasn’t sure what is was until I came across your website. Been living here 14 years and this is the first time. Wish I had a camera with me and thanks for keeping us informed.

  5. We had a wild? white baby Least Weasel? move into our house! Thank you for your postings, or I wouldn’t have known what the cute little guy was!?

    Today, March 10, 2012, we had what we thought was a mouse in our house. But white. When I laid down to look under the bed to see what just ran under there, it came to me! That’s no mouse! :-) He was about a 6″ long including about a 1″ bushy tail.
    We caught him in wee box, and let him go across the street, in the Paskapoo/Patterson woods, here in west Calgary.
    Dropped the cute little guy some bird seed and nuts … but I guess it won’t do him much good … looks like he may go eat some field mice!

    Thanks for the postings or I would not have known what the little guy was. Wished I could figure out how to post a picture that I took. He looked much like the ones you photographed, only he was pure white.

    Cheers!
    Wayne//

    • Thanks for the nice comment Wayne! All our North American weasels turn white in the winter just like the wild rabbits. They should start showing blotches of brown fur any day now. We would love to see your photo – please email it to us at birdscalgary@gmail.com so we can show our readers what they look like in the winter!

  6. I’m currently working in springbank and there’s a weasel completely white with a black spot on it’s tail I was curious if it’s the same type as seen in your pics

    • It’s not a Least Weasel, as these are completely white in winter, with no black tail tip. It’s either a Short-tailed Weasel (also known as Stoat or Ermine) or a Long-tailed Weasel. A Short-tailed is about 7.5 to 14.5 inches long (17 to 32.5 cm) including the tail, with a tail that is always at least one-third of that length. The Long-tailed Weasel is 13-16 inches (30 to 35 cm), so there is some overlap in size with the Short-tailed Weasel. But the tail on a Long-tailed Weasel makes up 40-70% of the total length.
      You can read about a local Long-tailed Weasel, and see some pictures of it here:
      http://birdscalgary.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/more-on-weasels/

  7. thank you so much for sharing these! We have short-tailed weasels here in Michigan, totally fearless animals.. but I’ve never seen the youngsters. This was a treat to view.

  8. Wonderful series of images! Thanks for sharing (via a friend via another friend). When in graduate school in Michigan in the 70s I had the good fortune to raise a litter of least weasels who were incredibly adorable and very efficient hunters, eating one deer mouse a day each once they became mature. Now I wish i had taken some decent images of these guys. You are very fortunate!

  9. Most interesting! I live in western MT and my husband and I were in Yellowstone NP for Thanksgiving week for one of our many wildlife watching trips in the Lamar valley. Along with spotting the larger animals, elk, buffalo, wolves, we on three separate occasions were lucky to encounter weasels as their winter selves, ermine. All three times we saw them going east from Mammoth along the road in the trees. I spotted the first one as only a blur of movement zipping from one side to the other, before it paused briefly on the uphill side of the road and I could see the white tail with the tell-tale black tip.
    Thinking about it, I’ll bet we have these critters here at home, going after the many squirrels etc. we see, so I think I have a good spot (a spring) to set up a trail camera.

  10. Took me back to the days when we had ferrets in our household; they always stole the show there too, and we always let them. ;-) I defer to the experts, but I imagine you were very wise to keep gloves on for everybody’s sake. If the least weasel is as much like the domestic ferret in its immune system as in its overall appearance, there would be a risk of transmitting disease — especially if viral — in either direction. (Our ferrets, for example, could easily catch the common human cold.) Many thanks for a delightful glimpse.

  11. Amazing! I love the little one with the open mouth – “Dis is my fierce face! Rarr!” My ferrets make the same faces!

  12. I am also squealing at the sight of all those wonderful wonderful little darlings. You made my day (and my week and month) as I will be viewing those pics over and over again.

    • The mum looks almost identical to the young, but she might have a slightly longer tail. I believe she is at the right-hand side of the first picture, facing away to the right.

  13. I get soooo many phone calls telling me that they saw a ferret outside that someone must have dumped and wanted me to come and rescue it due to the fact I am a ferret rescue. I ask them what it looks like, where it is located (by a body of water?) if there is more than one, are they the same color, and what color? I usually get the discription of a weasal, mink or an ermine. I then go to where they tell it is located and VERY rarely is it a ferret that was turned loose.
    We have rescued domestic mink’s before and know the difference between the wild mink and the domestic mink.
    I love those photo’s you took of those adorable little babies. I know I would have gotten a call for those by someone who did not know there animals… :-)

  14. Love the pictures. Having had the wonderful opportunity to see and hold one in person, the pictures bring back memories. Beautiful creatures and so much smaller than our ferrets.

  15. Pingback: Weasel Wednesday | Birds Calgary « Chittenango Creek Chapter of Ducks Unlimited

  16. It frightens me though, that they show no fear of man. For their own good, you know? There are too many jerks out there who would do God knows what to those adorable little souls.

  17. How unbelievably cute. So funny to see them and their similarities to ferrets, the nose, very similar ears, the curiosity (also weasels). Its interesting that they aren’t very cautious like many other wild animals. They come right up to your hand and foot!

  18. My family keeps chickens and before we had cats weasels were very common around our farm yard, often trying to steal a chicken and they very regularly did. Even though they seem much too small to kill a chicken and carry it off.
    You were very lucky to see a family of weasels, I love all the photos.

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