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Long-tailed weasel        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Three small weasel species occur in North America: the tiny least weasel (Mustela nivalis), the medium-sized short-tailed weasel (M. erminea) and the comparatively large long-tailed weasel (M. frenata), shown here.   All are slender, short-legged predators specialized for hunting rodents in confined burrows (but are also willing to tackle birds, rabbits, etc.).   Despite their ferocious reputation, I think they are charming and attractive animals, especially this colorful morph with yellow underside and masked face (they're usually brown and white).   This female was photographed along the road through the Carrizo Plain in San Luis Obispo County, California.     She was wary but curious, and kept popping out of squirrel holes to stare at me and my friend, while we frantically tried to train lenses on her before she popped back down again.   It was kind of like the 'whack-a-mole' game.

  • Canon 1D4, 800 mm f4 IS lens, some with 1.4X extender, many with fill-in flash (2013)