By Amy Redfeather
“Scarlet,” as we call her, was brought to Native Animal Rescue one sunny day in March. Scarlet is a Long-Tailed Weasel (Mustela Frenata), a native species, rarely seen. When she arrived at NAR we noticed she was a little too friendly and was missing her left eye. She was eager to socialize with humans and hopped around energetically in our special enclosure at NAR. We suspect Scarlet had been kept as a pet from the time she was very young, and this, coupled with her eye injury, made her incapable of surviving in the wild.
Knowing that we couldn’t release her, we decided to see if Scarlet could adapt to life at NAR, which she quickly did. We started her on a weasel-appropriate diet and took her to local veterinarian Dr. Stern for her shots and exam. Scarlet soon settled into a routine that includes doing some very light reward-based training and lots of sleeping! A few weeks later, we returned Scarlet to Dr. Stern’s to be neutered. When shaving Scarlet’s belly to spay her, Dr. Stern made a surprising discovery. “She’s a he.”
We think Scarlet will make a great educational ambassador and have submitted an application to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a Native Species Exhibiting Permit. Not many people know that long-tailed weasels exist, let alone are a native species here in Santa Cruz. They are super cool little critters who can take down prey, such as gophers and many other rodents, up to eight times their size. They are sly and cunning, so we do not normally see them, but when we do, it’s a treat for any naturalist. Unfortunately, they often fall prey to diseases such as distemper and can be sickened and even killed by rodenticides.
Scarlet can help others learn about long-tailed weasels, and we can help others learn how to conserve and protect what they cannot necessarily see.
For more information about the long-tailed weasel, visit: https://ovlc.org/ojai-wildlife/long-tailed-weasel/