It was probably about a decade ago that Owen first noticed a big weasel-like critter running across the road around twilight. We were pretty well acquainted with weasels since we owned a couple of ferrets, which are tame animals. Very small. These have been pets for thousands of years and although once upon a time they may have been wild, it has been a very long time since any of these adorable little guys lived “a wildlife” in the great outdoors.
There’s a particular way that weasels run, almost doubling up on themselves. No other animal runs like that. I suppose it’s because they are so much longer than they are tall. Our two ferrets were Bonnie, a tiny brown girl, and Clyde, a big fat white boy.
Neutered, so their sexes weren’t important to them or us. Except that Clyde was much bigger than Bonnie — like maybe three times her size. She barely weighed a pound and Clyde was a solid three-pounder.
They were a lot of fun. Our cat, Big Guy, adopted them. You might say that they were the pets of our pet cat. He adored them. They don’t live very long … maybe five or six years … and after they were gone, I didn’t get any more of them. They had a knack for getting into absolutely everything, including the inside of the sofa, the walls, under the floor.
Retrieving them from wherever they’d decided to take a nap was getting difficult for me. But we were familiar with weasels. There was no mistaking that gait.
Not long thereafter, I saw one too, so I call the Massachusetts Wildlife Division and asked if, by any chance, some rather big weasel-like creature had come to live in the Blackstone Valley.
The woman I spoke to was pleased. She had heard they had reappeared in the valley after having been missing since the late 1800s.
Closely related to mink, they have beautiful pelts and were heavily hunted for their fur. And land clearance pretty much finished them off. Unlike our ferrets, which are pets and have never lived wild, Fishers are wild animals and weight in at between 3 and 7-pounds. Their favorite food is (sorry kids) squirrels.
Usually, they are very dark brown — almost black — and maybe the size of a small raccoon. And yes, they do like eating cats if one happens to be roaming around. If you know you have fishers, do not let your cat roam. Given the plethora of predators — coyote, fox, raccoon, bobcat, and fisher — do your family a favor and do not let your cat roam outside. Between the toothy predators and the cars on the roads, they don’t have a chance.
We got to meet one up close and personal not long thereafter when one of them decided to take a nap in the one sunny place in our backyard. He was a gorgeous color of russet-brown. I could see him making a stunning coat.
When we tried to enter the yard, he hissed at us with just a hint of growling at the end. We retreated. Quickly. Between the bobcat who’d moved into my tepee and the fisher who’d taken over the yard, I developed a strong desire to stay on the deck.
But the wild weasels have every right to be here. They used to live here before being nearly hunted to extinction.
It’s the two-legged ones that work in the Statehouse and our Capitol that I resent. The wild weasels may take over the backyard while the sun is shining, but unlike the two-legged variety, they aren’t going to try to take away our medical care.