She is quite striking with her supple, slim body, short legs and small head. Her silky fur is brown on her back and head, with lighter color underneath. She has a distinctive white mark on her forehead, and her chin and paws are white. Her cat-like tail is tipped in black. She is a Long-tailed weasel, and while she looks cute with her short ears and black eyes, she is an embodiment of ferocity and cunning.
She has successfully raised her family of six kits. The growing kits are about to leave her, beginning their independent lives. She knows now, August, is time to attract a male to impregnate her once again.
Long-tailed weasels leave their scent by means of a strong anal gland. They don’t spray their musk like skunks; they rub their bodies over various surfaces to mark their territories, to discourage predators, and to attract a mate.
The female weasel lays down her scent. A solitary male will pick it up and arrive to mate. The male is soon on his way, because other females await.
Dennis and Linda Latona had a sighting of a Long-tailed weasel while staying on the Point Arena Lighthouse grounds, and the speed of the animal made it hard to capture with a camera. Dennis tells the story:
“I scrambled to get my Canon Rebel XT, and tried to get as many photos as possible. The weasel would pop (no pun intended) out of one hole and look around, then disappear, only to pop up from another hole, 20 to 30 feet or more away. I never knew how fast they could run ... Weasels are very hard to track with a camera above ground, and impossible to track when scampering underground.”
Long-tailed weasels live in burrows, which they have purloined from animals they have preyed on, such as chipmunks. They also make dens under stumps or rock piles. Their favorite food is rodents, and as rodent hunters they are seen as a boon to humans. Like bobcats, they also love chickens and seem to go into a frenzy, killing every chicken in a coop. Bobcats and weasels are good climbers, so overhead protection of chickens is a must.
These weasels have flexible backs that allow them access to burrows of rodents smaller than they are. They run close to the ground, dive down a burrow, snag an unsuspecting rodent, dispatch it with their strong incisors, and bring their meal back to their home burrow. They have been described as “small bolts of brown lightning,” in that you only get a moment to see them before they are gone.
Richard Kuehn and Dean Schuler had a Long-tailed weasel pay a visit to their studio on The Sea Ranch one year. Rich’s first thought was, “Was that a rat?” He then noted the tail was a long as its body. The weasel, thought to be a young one, soon hightailed it out of there.
Weasels have an amazingly high metabolic rate, which requires them to eat about a third of their body weight every day. They are smart, relentless hunters with well-developed senses of smell, hearing and sight. Along with being good climbers, they can also swim. Mother Nature gave these animals a lot of tools.
8 facts about long-tailed weasels
1. The Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata, is a member of the Mustelidae family, which includes animals such as badgers, skunks, river otters and sea otters.
2. These weasels communicate with squeals and shrieks, plus purrs and trills.
3. An adult male is about 20 inches long, including his long tail. He weighs only 10 to 18 ounces. A female is usually 10 percent smaller.
4. A male Long-tailed Weasel’s territory is between 30 and 40 acres. He spends his time alone, hunting every day. He relinquishes his solitary life to mate in late summer.
5. In the spring, the female will give birth to three to eight kits. The kits are blind, nearly hairless and helpless for the first month of their lives.
6. Animals that prey on Long-tailed weasels include foxes, bobcats, gopher snakes, hawks, and owls.
7. The tail of a Long-tailed weasel has a black tip. These weasels have been observed using the tip of their tail to mimic their head, causing preying animals to miss them.
8. Their eyes are black, but if caught by a headlight at night, they glow a bright, emerald-green.