Pop goes the weasel!

Susan and I have seen our fair share of Colorado wildlife, but one little mammal has mostly eluded us until recently.

A few years ago in the alpine tundra, near the Tundra World Nature Trail near Rock Cut in Rocky Mountain National Park, we caught fleeting glimpses of a long-tailed weasel. But it moved too fast in and out of the rocks for us to get a very good look at it and it was impossible to photograph it.

One morning, Susan was looking out the window and caught some motion in our front yard and when she zeroed in on it, she saw it was a long-tailed weasel, the first one either of us had ever observed in our yard. But this one too was on the move and it quickly disappeared from our yard and crossed the street and into the tall grass. I didn't get to see it.

Long-tailed Weasel in the yard

The next day morning, I happened to be looking out the window and saw a line composed over several weasels moving through the yard. I watched them gather near a hole in a concrete retaining wall next to the foundation of our house. I called Susan and we both watched them moving around below our windows just a few feet below.

A couple of days before there were Least Chipmunks on these same rocks

I quickly grabbed my camera and went out to the yard to try to "shoot" them, but realized I wasn't prepared to stand out there in sun for very long. I came back in and got a hat and a chair and went back out to sit in the shade of a tree and settled in to wait patiently for them to come back out.

It wasn't long before one or two popped out to look around. They were very skittish though, and when I moved the camera to my face they scurried away out of sight. But I was patient and still and they eventually came out. First a couple of them, and then as many as 6 or 7 were scurrying around the rocks and flower beds by our house! I began shooting pictures without leaving my chair and caught lots of action. I was as still as possible as any sudden movement caused them to hide. I could see that they were even reacting to the clicks of the camera shutter.

The weasels appeared to be a family with a couple of adults and several smaller kits. As a group, they kept coming out, running up the incline of the retaining wall, and at one point, lasting only 15 seconds, they mostly stopped and grouped together, allowing me to get off about a dozen shots of them. I saw all this through the camera's viewfinder, but Susan was inside, watching this from the window and got to see them only 10-12 feet away!

They were so cute and adorable, but they are also vicious little creatures, with razor sharp teeth. And they will go after other mammals larger than they are.

It's not surprising that the family of 4 or 5 Least Chipmunks we'd seen on these same rocks were nowhere to be seen. We have no idea if they were chased away by the weasels or were attacked and eaten.

During all of the weasel activity, our resident House Wrens were constantly chattering at them with alarm calls. The wrens even flew around, following the weasels and swooping in at them, with the weasels responding by running away.

House Wrens trying to chase the weasels away

One of the House Wrens in a calmer moment

I spent about an hour watching and photographing the weasels and then they seem to disperse, with a couple of them running across the driveway near where Susan stood, into the grass and around to the back of our house. A couple of times, they approached Susan, and they didn't show much fear even when she stomped her feet at them or threw rocks in their general direction to try to scare them away from our front door.

We weren't terribly excited about the possibility that the weasel family might be living in a den in our yard. Not the best situation to have when the grandkids come to visit and want to play outside.

Soon, there was no more weasel activity and I came inside to take a look at the 200+ images I shot. What a treat!

We came back out late in the day to see if they appeared again, but only a single weasel showed up and ran around the yard before it left the area.

The next morning, there was no more weasel activity. We had mixed feelings -- we were thrilled to have gotten such a unique viewing of the little family, but relieved that they seemed to be just passing through. We'll probably never have another weasel viewing experience like this!


  1. You have some great shots & a interesting story to go with it. Love their creamy yellow undersides.

  2. They look like they belong in a Disney cartoon!

  3. How amazing that you got such great shots of them; a big family, too. Maybe they were foraging or hunting and teaching the kits as they explored.