Sunday, January 20, 2013

The White Winter Varmit

Yesterday morning at breakfast, cowdog Mavis suddenly went ballistic: Barking like a screaming habanchi and running from window to window.  It was snowing lightly, with 10 inches of fluffy snow already on the ground from the past several days and there were no dogs or deer infringing on her property rights and no joggers going up the rural road either.   I saw nothing, except the tracks of the flock as they headed back to the coop to get a snack.

I got up and opened the door and out bombed Mavis. She zoomed to the far side of my truck and I saw a flash of something run from the truck to under the porch steps.  I thought it was a mouse because I saw 2 inches of a dark colored something.  And 3 weeks ago I had to have a burning mouse removed from my manifold, plus The Gauntlet mouse trap my practical brother gave me for Christmas is catching mice at an olympic rate, so I naturally assumed it was a mouse.

I called Mavis back into the house and she reluctantly came.   She sat by the window and growled while I continued with breakfast.  All of a sudden I saw the something come out from under the stairs. Mavis almost jumped through the window.

Here is what I it ran back to the other side of my truck.

I felt a shiver run down my spine and leaped for the door to let that new weasel dog of mine back out to protect the flock as I ran to the chicken coop to put the birds in Lock down!

Mavis ran the varmint back under the stairs and I could hear it hissing and chirping from way over by the coop as I counted the flock and locked them in.

 When I went back to the porch stairs the weasel was involved in a rapid game of trying to bite Mavis from the little opening at the side of the stairs.

It would stick its head out and try to nip at Mavis and then chirp and hiss.  "Our weasel" had bright pink beady eyes and a pink nose.

Very healthy looking.
 I was glad to see that.

I could not believe how tiny it was and how bold it was.

I was so focused on what was now under the steps I didn't even think about my camera, so I am using the photos of others who have also experienced a close encounter with an unexpected winter guest.

How Mavis ever saw this tiny white creature in the snow is beyond me, but she alerted the household and just about the entire neighborhood to its presence. 

This past summer I had seen a tiny brown one cross the road  about 100 yards from the house.

These short tailed weasel family critters are called ermine.
Though the centuries their fur has been used to decorate royal families clothing.

Browse "ermine" and ancient portraits of royal families covered in white ermine furs through the centuries will pop up, some with ermine sitting on their laps!

These ermine are very beneficial to places that have many voles, moles, mice, squirrels and chipmunks.
I got the full menu here. I should change my farm name to the Ermine Diner!

I am sure this boy was here to eat the abundnace of mice that stampeded in to this old farmhouse once it started to get cold last fall.

As I read more about them, I became convinced this was so.

Read this info and see what I mean:

I am not going to trap him as long as he leaves my flock alone.

His judgement may have been fuzzy from hunger when he chose this farm instead of the others on this road, but I am sure now that he has been confronted by a real Vermont weasel dog he may now rethink his decision to dine here.
Although he is free to return to reduce the ever growing population of chipmunks, squirrels and mice.

Once the flock was locked in, I brought Mavis into the house and we watched from the windws to see if our new visitor was ready to leave.

Neither of us saw him scurry away, but this morning Mavis showed me that there was no sign of him so I let the flock out and supervised them in this 25 mph gusty windy day.

Here is a little more info about these tiny, efficient hunters in Vermont 
Have you ever seen an ermine ?
Has one ever gotten your chickens ?


  1. What a beautiful creature, very impressive tail. No I have never laid eyes on an Ermine, but if we have them in Maine I am sure sooner or later they'll make a visit to my coop!!!

  2. Wow, they are very small but can sure kill many bigger critters, One other gal had one after the Bunnies....hope your Chickens are o.kFrancine.

  3. I've never seen one of these! The pesky varmit is actually kind of cute!

  4. yes. actually it got one of my guineas and talk about a determined kill. um... i'd let Mavis, DogWarrior, have at it. they can be relentless.

  5. I saw an ermine dart across our road just last week. We've never had trouble here with them getting our chickens, but when we lived up north, they killed a bunch. They are pretty critters.

  6. I gotta say he is sooo cute! I have never seen anything like that. I just love your blog and falling in love with Vermont!

  7. I have never seen a weasal or ermine in the live, so I really enjoyed these pictures!

  8. We knew we had weasels for years. One lived under a stump out by our son's toy storage shed and they used to watch each other.

    Because we've taken to saying the ONLY things we DON'T have are wolves, wolverines and lynx (because it's easier than saying all the rest), we've always built to protect the hens from all the rest.

    So they've not been a threat here, but had we used lesser materials (chicken wire instead of hardware cloth) or built less of a fortress (no brooder enclosure) we would definitely have had problems.

    One thing we didn't do was make the outside pen safe. This was because the cows chased off the land predators. Since we don't have cows in the winter, especially mother cows, we've had to wire the pen against all comers.

    Good thing Mavis is a weasel dog. :))

  9. For such nasty predators they sure are cute! I've seen one little one play hide and seek with my dog Gracie, it was pretty adorable to watch them! As long as they stay away from my coop, I'm happy to let them reduce our squirrel and mouse population!

  10. I have never seen one, but I know we have them. One took out a few of my chickens a couple of years ago. And once they know where a delicious chicken dinner is, it's really very hard to stop them. You wouldn't believe the teeny holes they could squeeze through! We put up hardware cloth and even that doesn't always work. While they might be helpful with your mouse population, I would be leery of letting it stay if you see it again.

  11. That is a beautiful critter! You're lucky though, here we have fishers (fisher cats) and they are 10X the size and super viscous! Great job Mavis!


  12. Wow, the weasel is beautiful! I don't think we have those around my house. Hopefully he/she stays away from your critters.

  13. hi. i'm following the "down home" blog hop. i would love for you to visit my blog and follow if you like it.


    new follower bev

  14. that creature is wild. to be honest - i've only seen the ones in movies or like on Disney shows & such. are they sort of related to a ferrets? i had a friend in college who lived with a girl that owned a ferret. wild!! ... i hope things will quiet down at your place. that sounds wild. can i say wild any more. i'm glad your dog Mavis (love that name) was so smart & too care of you in that way. smart doggies rule!! ( :

    i was trying to get to your link for Barn Charm ever it appears that it is not linking to the barn? thanks!!

    had issues with the link up last night.... sorry to be late on commenting here.

  15. We've had weasel encounters here in BC, Canada, too. They have a distinctive smell -- much like skunk but not as strong. Our great pyr have dispatched one or two after it came too close to our hens and their chicks. Great detail in your story. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday this week.

  16. They have the cutest little faces, but can really raise havoc. I am guessing it will move on once it eats all the stray mice!

  17. What a beautiful animal! I'm so glad she didn't hurt your chickens, but I'm sure she's looking for a meal in this harsh winter weather. Gorgeous photos!

  18. We did have a weasel get our chickens a couple years ago. It was heartbreaking. Because it was so small it was able to get them inside the coop, even though we thought we had made it safe for them. I guess we would try hardware cloth next time. The creatures sure are beautiful but not good to have near your chickens!