Thursday, November 10, 2016

Living Dangerously

It was there in the photo from the camera at my favorite camera trap location in the Big Woods – something white. Out in the woods on the camera’s tiny screen there was no way to tell what it was, even after zooming in to the camera’s limit.

At home, on the computer, the image was clearer but the first thing that came to mind, since gray squirrels are common in the area, was a white or albino squirrel. A closer look quickly revealed that this was no squirrel –

Zooming in on the animal in the photo clearly showed that it had a black tip on its tail –

This was no squirrel – it was a weasel in its white winter coat. There are three species of weasels in Pennsylvania: the least weasel which is both very small and very rare; the short-tailed weasel or ermine which is larger; and the long-tailed weasel, the largest of the weasels. Virtually all short-tailed weasels become white in winter, while only about 20 percent of long-tailed weasels in Pennsylvania don a white winter coat. From the angle of this photo, which was the only photo of the weasel, there’s no way to tell which species it was.

The photo was taken on October 30th, long before we can expect to have snow consistently covering the ground – actually, in recent years the warming climate has made any snow in October extremely uncommon.

This weasel will have to be really quick or really lucky to escape the hunting fox, hawk, owl, or coyote that could so easily see a meal in the form of a snow-white weasel on dry brown leaves. 


The Furry Gnome said...

What a lucky webcam catch!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, wow that is an awesome critter. Great shots, I hope it stays safe, it is beautiful. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Sunday, enjoy your weekend!

mick said...

Great photo capture. It is interesting to see it against the dark leaves. Hope the snow comes soon and hides it.

John Van Niel said...

Excellent point about the early coat change. I wonder if they change early so the energy demands of growing new fur are met at a time when there are fewer other demands on that energy.

Woody Meristem said...

That might well be the case, but that would have to be weighed against the increased susceptibility that the ones that molt early would succumb to predation. Of course, in some years the ones that molt early, when there's plenty of food available and the snow comes early, would have a better chance of surviving through the winter. It would be a similar mechanism to that of tree swallow where some years the early migrants acquire the best territories and other years they get caught by cold weather and die. Nature's insurance policy.

Camera Trap Codger said...

That tail looks to be a good size -- my guess is it might be a long-tail. Whatever it is, it's still a rare shot. Weasels are hard to get.