Gary Schoelen took this photo recently of a Long-tailed Weasel by his back door.
Long-tailed Weasels (Mustela frenata) are common throughout the Tehachapi Mountains, although their secretive nature and fast-paced life prevents them from being seen often even when they are present.
Weasels are in the Mustelid family, which includes other North American mammals such as badgers, fishers, otters, mink, ferret and wolverines. Long-tailed Weasels are voracious and brave hunters, willing to attack and take down prey larger than themselves, such as adult rabbits.
While the Mustelids have a reputation as being a threat around a hen house, and they can be, Long-tailed Weasels typically eat just rodents including mice, voles, rats, gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. The most common wildlife in the Tehachapi Mountains to attack chickens are raccoons and bobcats. Weasels are more likely to take chicks or eggs than full-grown chickens.
Since they are quite small, only about the size of a gaunt, somewhat elongated California Ground Squirrel, weasels are themselves prey for larger predators like coyotes, foxes, bobcats, owls and hawks.
Weasels den in burrows, but seldom dig themselves, instead appropriating burrows created by ground squirrels and chipmunks.
In northern and colder locations, Long-tailed Weasels molt and turn white during the winter months, and are overall light brown with white and black facial markings the rest of the year. In Southern California, Long-tailed Weasels may skip their winter color change.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern Paiute) word for weasel is sügüsa, pronounced suh-SUH-ga.
NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.