Up until last October, I had no idea that there were wild weasels in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know why but it just never occurred to me that these animals lived in the wild here but it’s true! There are a couple kinds of wild weasels that call the Northwest home. Here are some fun facts about these animals:
[ONE] There are short and long-tailed weasels, distinguishable by the length of their tails! Long-tailed weasels can be found in North America while short-tailed weasels are found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Some short-tailed weasels are even found as far north as the Arctic!
[TWO] Both types of weasels are carnivores and will eat other animals like mice, rabbits, insects, and chipmunks. Short-tailed weasels will also live in the burrows of the animals they kill and will sometimes kill more than they can eat immediately. The extra is buried and eaten later.
[THREE] Many short-tailed weasels in North America will change colors during the winter from brown to white. However, the short-tailed weasels in the Olympic Peninsula don’t! They stay their usual brown all year round.
[FOUR] Weasels are in the same family as otters, fishers, and minks! They are all a part of the Mustelidae family.
[FIVE] Weasels will often eat 40%+ of their body weight each day and will often eat rodents (especially mice!). If mice aren’t around, they’ll also eat birds, fish, insects, pikas, and shrews!
Like you it never occurred to me that I might see a weasel in WA. Watching for birds this morning at our koi pond I saw something stick its head out from between the rocks and dart across the retaining wall. First thought ferret, then thought about it and figured must be a weasel. Looked it up and sure enough. Every year we lose a few koi, figuring it’s big bird (our name for heron that hang out in spring and fall). I see that weasels sometimes eat fish. Could this little dodger be responsible?
So I had to do some quick research and I think that what you might have seen was actually a mink! Like weasels, minks are found in Washington and most of north America. Plus, weasels and minks actually look really similar (and almost like ferrets) but there are some differences, like coloring and diet. Some weasels do swim and eat fish but minks are known for being excellent swimmers and frogs and fish are a part of their diet during warmer months.
However, I could be wrong! Either way, a weasel or mink could easily steal a couple koi from your pond each year.
Thank you for your question and I hope you don’t lose too many koi this year!
Early this morning I saw a large weasel around the bird feeder, and then moving around the back yard. It was fairly large, dark brown with some light brown edging, and was about 10 – 12 pounds. My guess is that it was a Fisher (Pekania pennanti ) but I didn’t get and pictures or video of the animal. I know they’ve made it to Port Angeles, but didn’t know they’d made it this far. The only other weasel around that looks similar is the Mink (Mustela vison) but they top out at about 3 pounds. The animal I saw was about the size of a medium sized house cat. I have seen Martins, River Otters, Sea Otters, and Short-tailed Weasels before, but this guy was a first for me, if it was a Fisher. I live about a mile from the Dungeness River on the edge of a small, forested section of land.
Yesterday, while enjoying the sun in our backyard in Granite falls, we observed a small weasel(?) run along some timbers just a few feet from us. It was slightly bigger than a squirrel and an orange brown color. I didn’t note the length of its tail. Are fishers or minks this color?
Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure! I did some quick Googling and I believe you saw a weasel. Fishers tend to be dark brown and adults are the size of house cats. Weasels of various species can vary in color (including a yellow/orange brown during part of the year) and are a bit smaller.
However, I’m far from an expert. But it is cool that you saw that animal in your backyard!
1st time ever, saw a weasel in our backyard up in Sammamish. He had killed a rabbit and was dragging it away, but the birds chased the weasel away. Crazy quick mover.
Saw a Weasel on my deck last night. This was the first time ever seeing one anywhere around Port Orchard WA.
Did not even think they were part of the local wildlife.
We saw a weasel last night in the brush and rockery in our backyard in Duvall. I too had no idea they were around here. Cute little guy but hope he doesn’t find our chickens!
Yes nice to look at but this one has taken out all the baby birds in three nest and have not seen our squirrels or rabbits in the last few weeks. Now I’m possitive it has crewed through the vent screens to the crawl space and is living there. So sort of want this on our family of GONE!
Saw a pack of 4 today along the Lake Whatcom trail. 2 were brown, one was white carrying what looked like a baby, though maybe it was dinner, in her mouth. They looked liked ferrets.
Saw our first long-tailed weasel June 20, 2020. Watched it from our deck in the meadow taking out one chipmunk after the other and poking its head out from their holes. Beautiful animal, careful and fast.(Little Ninja) Our chipmunks have been our little morning buddies but won’t miss them much because there are too many making holes all over our yards and driveways. So we just watched nature do its thing. Cougar walked threw earlier might find it. Location, 3 miles past Coles Corner, 20 minutes northwest of Leavenworth off HWY 2. Visitor saw the cougar in our yard 11:00 am, I’ve been waiting 17 years to see in person (not too close) but only captured on tree camera. Oh well, been face to face with Black bear, wolf, cougar behind me not knowing it was there (came out on camera pic.),and rattle snake numerous times. Very blessed out here, in many ways.
Oh wow! That’s a lot of wildlife encounters.
And agreed: we’re blessed here in the Pacific Northwest. Surrounded by nature and wildlife!
I walked the Snoqualmie Valley Trail with a friend this week, and near a wetlands area, a small weasel (I believe) ran across the trail in front of us. As I was pondering “what was that?!” It ran back the other way, so I saw it twice. Very slender, fast, low to the ground, about 12-13” tip to tip, reddish brown in color. I didn’t catch sight of any lighter color on belly or neck. It seems closest to a short-tailed weasel when I search the possibilities. I don;t think it was big enough to be a mink…? Not sure.
Your description seems to be a weasel. They are showing up all over the state. Just saw a family of Otter this moring in Mc Cormic Woods, just off the golf course. With all the builking going on the criters are finding anyplace they can live.
Brother Dave sent me of what I’ll assume was a weasel at the edge of the Nooksak river near Demming. Looks to be about 7#. It’s all white with a bit of brown at the tip of the tail, so I’ll assume for now that it’s a short tailed weasel.
Great website, Andrea. Thanks.
Mark and Tam
I’ve lived in the Portland area of Oregon for over forty five years. Yesterday I saw my first weasel. I had gone outside and noticed a dead rat, that looked clean and like it was fresh. I went to grab a shovel and when I came back, I saw a weasel standing right next to it, with its head high. It ducked and darted side to side before grabbing the rat and running off. The rat was probably the same size if not bigger than the weasel, but it carried it off, quickly without a problem. I don’t mind it killing off rodents, but we have chickens, which I’m hoping will be left alone.
We saw a short tail weasel this morning on our back deck. We live in the Fairwood neighborhood near Renton, WA. I did manage to get a picture of it before it quickly disappeared under the deck. So far it has not returned. It was grey and had a dark brown/maroon colored blaze on its chest. Never saw one here before. We live on a golf course so we’ve seen otters and coyotes and bobcats but never weasels.
Wow – what an incredible experience!
Checked my game camera 4 miles north of hwy 2 at Monroe. Got a quick video of what appeared to be a short tailed weasel running by. Had no idea they were in this area.
My neighbor found a baby weasel in the tall grass. It was by itself and didn’t seem to be doing very well. I have no idea what the situation might be but I hope the baby will survive. Is there anything that I could have done?
With any found wildlife, you should contact the nearby wildlife rehabilitation center.
My husband saw something that fits a weasel or mink’s description eating the entire head of the semi-mature sunflower we have growing in our front yard. Are weasels or minks sometimes omnivores – would they eat sunflower seeds? It was a mammal, long sleek tail but bigger and taller than a rat, in the dark wee hours of the morning. We live in the suburbs but across from a large wild field and on the edge of a forest greenspace
I’m not 100% sure but it sounds entirely possible that if they were hungry enough, a weasel would eat some sunflower seeds! They are almost strictly carnivores but from what I can tell, they’ve been known to eat fruit and berries during the summer.
Just saw our first short tailed weasel behind our barn in Sequim (out near Cline Spit). My husband got some great pictures of him.
My cat brought me a present this morning, leaving it on my porch. I live in Gaston, Oregon in the foothills of the coast range. I have lived here for over 20 years and this was a first for me. It was about the size of a ferret with a long cylindrical body, the tail was about 6 inches long with the tail end being black.. The whole body was a fawn color with kind of a orangish belly, a flat rectangular head with short little legs. My son looked it up online and came up with a NW Weasel. I had no idea we had them here. Kind of neat to see different wildlife up here, just wish my cat hadn’t caught and killed it