Nature Bulletin No. 137 January 10, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation
The weasel is a close relative of the mink but is smaller and lives
entirely on land. It, too, has musk glands that can eject a powerful
disagreeable odor. Summer and winter, it is a tireless fearless hunter
that kills not only for food but also, apparently, for pleasure. A weasel
hag been known to kill all of the 40 chickens in a hen-house, drinking
only the blood of a few.
Hunting at night, and frequently in day time, they prey on mice, rabbits,
chipmunks, ground-squirrels, gophers and ground-nesting birds. They
also eat grasshoppers, crickets, frogs, and even earthworms. They can
climb trees after white-footed mice and squirrels, and a weasel has been
known to chase a squirrel through the trees, from branch to branch, until
it got him. Just the other day, a group of men standing in a farmyard
saw a rabbit, closely pursued by a weasel, come running and zigzagging
toward them. Right at their feet, the weasel seized the rabbit at the back
of its head, hugging the body with his fore legs and scratching wildly at
the belly with his hind legs. The men yelled and kicked at the weasel
until it ran off a few yards, where it stopped, looked back hungrily, and
then bounded away.
Actually, this fierce little animal is beneficial to the farmer because it
destroys great numbers of mice, rats, ground-squirrels and gophers. It
has a long slender body, short legs, a long neck, and a small narrow
triangular head with low rounded ears and bulging jaw muscles. The
upper parts are dark brown, the under parts are whitish, usually tinged
with yellow; and the slightly bushy tail has a black tip. In northern
regions the weasel turns white in winter, except for the black tip of the
tail. Here, and farther south, the color rarely changes. Trapped in
winter, the fur of northern weasels is sold as "ermine", for many years
forbidden to be worn except by royalty. The true ermine is a weasel of
northern Europe and Asia.
Weasels remain paired, perhaps for life, and are devoted to their young,
from 4 to 8 in number, born each spring. Blind and helpless at birth,
they are soon able to romp and play and hunt with their parents. The
home life of the weasel contrasts curiously with its fierce nature.
It can twist and strike like a snake. Hence the expression: "weasel
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