On the lookout...

Weasel - British Wildlife centre, Surrey, England - Sunday August 17th 2008.

 

This is the first time I have ever seen one of these lil guys....they normally hide from me...lol

I couldn't believe how small they were, I always thought they were bigger..shows what I know...:O)))

This and the other images I got today are taken with my new Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2...My Sigma 70-300mm lens is having the Autofocus fixed, so I will be using the Tamron for the next 3 weeks.

It's not as good as the Sigma, but seems OK...as this shot proves....at the end of the day, tiss better then nowt....lol..:O))

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ~ Weasels are mammals in the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. Originally, the name "weasel" was applied to one species of the genus, the European form of the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis). Early literary references to weasels, for example their common appearances in fables, refer to this species rather than to the genus as a whole, reflecting what is still the common usage in the United Kingdom. In technical discourse, however, as in American usage, the term "weasel" can refer to any member of the genus, or to the genus as a whole. Of the 16 extant species currently classified in the genus Mustela, ten have "weasel" in their common name. Among those that do not are the stoat or ermine, the two species of mink, and the polecats or ferrets.

 

Weasels vary in length from fifteen to thirty-five centimeters (six to fourteen inches), and usually have a light brown upper coat, white belly and black fur at the tip of the tail; in many species, populations living at high latitudes moult to a white coat with black fur at the tip of the tail in winter. They have long slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails are typically almost as long as the rest of their bodies. As is typical of small carnivores, weasels have a reputation for cleverness and guile. They also have tails that can be anywhere from 22-33 cm long and they use these to defend the food they get and to claim territory from other weasels. The average weasel weighs about 198grams (7 ounces).

 

Weasels feed on small mammals, and in former times were considered vermin since some species took poultry from farms, or rabbits from commercial warrens. Certain species of weasel and ferrets, have been reported to perform the mesmerizing weasel war dance, after fighting other creatures, or acquiring food from competing creatures. In folklore at least, this dance is particularly associated with the stoat.

 

Food: mainly mice and voles but also rats, moles, small birds, birdsÕ eggs, rabbits.

 

The weasel is BritainÕs smallest carnivore and belongs to the same family as the stoat and otter. It is a fierce hunter and is usually only spotted as a long, thin tan-coloured streak as it dashes across a road or woodland path.

 

Weasel Habits ~ Territory ~ Each weasel has a territory of 4 - 8 hectares (1 hectare = 2 football pitches). MalesÕ territories are larger than femalesÕ and they may overlap with one another. The size of the territory depends on the food supply; where there is plenty there is no need to hunt for food far and wide. The individual territories are marked with strong-smelling secretions from the anal scent glands. Females stay in their territory throughout the year, but during the mating season, males may travel long distances outside their normal range to find a mate. Weasels do not make themselves any kind of permanent burrow - they usually use the tunnel or burrow of one of the animals they have eaten!

 

Hunting. A weasel hunts mainly by scent and investigates every likely hole and crevice it comes across. It is small enough to follow its favourite prey - voles and mice - down into their underground runs. The victim is killed with a sharp bite to the back of the neck. Prey is usually taken on the ground, but weasels can climb well and sometimes raid a birdÕs nest box. Weasels are good swimmers too and will chase water voles through the water.

 

Hunting is done mainly at night, although weasels often hunt during the day too. The favourite food is the field vole and when voles are plentiful there will be a high weasel population. Vole populations fluctuate and when they are low, the weasels do not breed and their populations decrease in turn.

A weasel eats about 28g of food a day - about 25 per cent of its own body weight.

 

Breeding ~ Weasels mate in the spring and this is the only time males and females associate with each other. After a 5 week gestation period (the time between mating and birth) a litter of 3 - 8 babies (kittens) is born, in April or May. There may be a second litter in July or August. The kittens are born in a nest of leaves or grass in a hole or crevice. Their eyes open when they are about three weeks old and they are weaned at 4 - 5 weeks. The family often goes out hunting together until the youngsters can kill for themselves at 8 weeks. At 12 weeks the mother drives her offspring away to find territories of their own. Young weasels, born early in the year, are capable of breeding themselves during their first summer, unlike other British carnivores which do not breed until their second year.

 

Weasels and Man ~ Cats, owls, foxes and birds of prey will all try to kill weasels, although a weasel will fight hard to defend itself. Man has persecuted weasels over the years particularly in areas where pheasants and partridges are reared; gamekeepers and farmers have always regarded weasels as vermin and trapped them in large numbers. In fact, since one weasel may eat hundreds of mice in a year, it should be looked on as a useful friend, doing more good than harm!

 

Many weasels are killed on the roads too, but despite the dangers they face from man, they are still quite common and are under no threat as a species.

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Taken on August 17, 2008
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