Back on June 20th, I wrote about a walk I took after CPR training. Toward the end of the walk, I was checking a bird box, when down at my sandled foot, I felt something furry. I immediately assumed it must be someone’s escaped pet ferret, because weasels would never be so friendly. It sniffed around my foot and seemed to be investigating my pant leg as a possible place to seek shelter.
Without thinking, I reached down to pick it up. It acted for all the world like a pet. It settled right down in my hand and surveyed the world from its new post. I knew Sarah and Kim would love to see it, so I emptied my journal pouch and placed it inside, finished checking the bird box, made my notes, and returned to the building.
We discussed the possibilities. Ferret? No. It has the wrong colors. Hand-raised weasel? Possibly. Because it’s what she does, Sarah made a habitat for the little guy and took it home to observe it for the night. And the next day… and the next…
After a couple of days, it started acting funny, dragging its back side around, much less active. Sadly, by the time the following Monday came around, it had died. Sarah called the health department to find out the best course of action. “Have it tested for rabies,” was the answer. Thankfully, it tested negative.
In the short time it was with us, it generated a flurry of learning. We read all the information we could find on Short-tailed Weasels, also known as stoats or, in winter, ermine. I learned that a weasel can live to be 10 years old, that they can produce the same odor as a skunk, that their range can be anywhere from 4 to 96 square miles, that they can kill prey bigger than themselves, that they often appropriate chipmunk dens and take them over for their own. I learned about their breeding habits, which are too bizzare for words… ok, I’ll give you some words: After the female gives birth, a male will mate with mom, and with all the female babies – even when they are so young they still have their eyes shut. Yeah. Weird.
In retrospect, picking up a wild, potential rabies vector was probably a stupid thing to do and, if faced with such an opportunity again in the future, I will probably be a bit more careful. But it was very interesting to have this little guy with us, to teach us about another of Nature’s wonderful creatures. Here are some websites, in case you want to learn more: