Tantalizing Glimpses

by Carl Strang

Last week, for only the second time in my life, I saw a long-tailed weasel. I was on a morning bike ride, touring rural roads around Culver, Indiana, when a small mammal crossed the road in front of me, disappearing into dense herbaceous vegetation at the edge. There was no mistaking that long slender form for anything other than a weasel, and it was too lightly built to be a mink. Its length appeared close to that of a female mink, however, which rules out the least weasel.

My only other long-tailed weasel sighting was a glimpse of one climbing a wooded mountainside in New York State’s Adirondacks. Otherwise, I have found their tracks on only three occasions.

This sketch I make near Hartz Lake in Starke County, Indiana, in 1989. I also have seen tracks twice in DuPage County, Illinois. And that’s it. Such limited experience suggests these animals are relatively few, at least compared to mink, which I expect to see a few times each year.

For an inquiry-minded naturalist, an animal like this will be a frustrating subject. Mammalogists resort to trapping and radio-tagging to learn about such creatures. Fortunately there are plenty of more accessible subjects to study, as I hope this blog has illustrated, and it’s good that there are some animals to liven one’s experience with such rare sightings as the one I had last week.

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