Standing Weasel

Capturing a portrait of a weasel is no easy feat for these predators that cover miles of territory in search of food.

By: Dawn Wilson

This week’s featured animal is the weasel. These ferocious hunters can be found throughout Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park—from rock piles on the 18-hole golf course to the talus slopes of the tundra—but catching them sitting still for very long is a challenge. They have tremendously large territories and as a result, tend to move a lot navigating those spaces looking for food.

1. The weasel is a mammal that is in the same genus as ferrets and minks. There are two species of weasels in the Estes Valley region—the short and the long-tailed weasel. These are only differentiated by the length of the tail and the body length of the short-tailed weasel is slightly smaller than the long-tailed weasel.

Short-tailed weasel on Mt Evans

Although tough to watch, it is amazing to know that a weasel can prey on animals up to ten times their size. This short-tailed weasel successfully chased this pika into its burrow on the tundra.

2. Weasels are extremely adaptable and can be found in all corners of the world except Antarctica and Australia. They are the most widely distributed predator in the world.

3. The short-tailed weasel is the smallest mammalian carnivore in Colorado, and the long-tailed weasel is the most widespread carnivore in the Western Hemisphere.

4. A weasel, weighing only about 2 to 9 ounces, can kill and carry prey up to ten times their own size, including animals like rabbits, squirrels and pikas. They also eat more than 40 percent of their own body weight each day.

Long-tailed weasel RMNP

Weasels are adorable looking critters but they are ferocious hunters that are skilled at capturing and killing prey in tight spaces, like under rocks on the alpine tundra.

5. The weasel’s long, slender body allows it to enter the dens and small hiding spaces of its prey. The weasel often takes over the den or burrow after killing it.

Dawn Wilson is a professional and award-winning nature photographer who lives in Estes Park year-round. You can see more of her work, join one of her Rocky tours and purchase prints at DawnWilsonPhotography.com.

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