Sunday, December 22, 2013

Can you spot the weasel?

In addition to bears and skunks, our camera traps draws in a lot of other mammals.  This photo taken by a project volunteer in West Virginia is washed out by the nighttime flash, but if you look closely there is a short-tailed weasel in the shot.  Can you spot it?



This one is a little easier...



A few quick facts about the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea):
  • Also called the stoat or ermine, they change coat color from brown to white during winter, yet always maintain a black-tipped tail
  • The same species is found across the nothern hemisphere, including Europe and Russia
  • These small carnivores live a fast-paced life, where they need to consume nearly a quarter of their body weight in small birds and rodents to meet their daily energetic needs
  • To time the birth of their young to when resources are plentiful, females can utilize delayed implantation, where sperm is stored in the female's body for as long as 9 months prior to implantation of the egg in the uterus.  Following implantation, gestation of the fertilized eggs to birth of 4-8 kits only takes 4 weeks.
  • This high depredation rate and reproductive output makes weasels highly effective predators.   However, such efficiency can be a conservation problem when they are introduced to new areas - for example, stoats introduced to the islands of New Zealand are decimating native bird populations and the subject of expensive eradication campaigns.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Road kill report

The most common way that spotted skunks have been reported over the years is through citizens finding road killed animals.  This past week, a road killed spotted skunk was brought to a local Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries field office.  While the loss of such a rare species is sad, the observation was a new record for the area and provided a beautiful specimen for preservation.  If you see a road kill skunk, take a second look at it to make sure it isn't a spotted rather than the more common stripped skunk.  Every observation in a state where there have been under 50 confirmed sightings is valuable!