FAMILY MUSTELIDAE Weasels, otters & relatives

Long-tailed Weasel
Mustela frenata

Long-tailed Weasel has one of the broadest ranges of any land mammal in the New World, extending from southern Canada to Bolivia. While widespread, it is "generally uncommon or rare" (Reid 2006). Here in Monterey County on the central California coast, I encounter it occasionally during the day, but it is always on the move, bounding away with upraised tail (above). Until the day of these shots (25 Apr 2008), I'd never managed to snap a single photo of one. This one (above & below) was in Pebble Beach, right near the famed Bird Rock, and dashed across 17 Mile Drive with a vole in its mouth.

I followed cautiously and the weasel disappeared down a burrow in the sand dunes. It seemed apparent that the adult had carried the prey to its young. So I just waited, and eventually the adult stuck its head back up (left). The was in bright sunshine at 4 p.m., but the literature does indicate that the species can be active day or night. Apparently breeding takes place in the summer but the young are not born until the next spring (Reid 2006).

The pelage of Long-tailed Weasel is extremely variable. Those in the far north have an all-white winter coat. Those here in the southwestern U.S. are orange with a black face and a white patch between the eyes (left & below).

This adult did not seem very concerned about me. Instead, it looked around (right) as if to determine which way to go next, and then bounded off in a different direction than from whence it had come.

These photos were all hand-held shots without a blind, so I felt very lucky to have my camera available during this brief encounter.

Literature cited:

Reid, F. A. 2006. A Field Guide to Mammals of North America north of Mexico. 4th ed. Peterson Field Guide series. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Page created 14 June 2008
all photos & text © 2007 Don Roberson