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8:39 p.m. - 2005-10-04
Stinky and Pinky. *New Pics 4/8/06*
Happy Tuesday, Critter Lovers! I hope you are having a good week and are experiencing the beautiful fall colors.

Last night I experienced a flash of reddish color across my bathroom floor...yes, it was a centipede, hiding behind the plunger! And yes, I was forced to spray him with Raid. This event caused me to feel grossed out and to sleep poorly.

The voles are still in residence in downtown Minneapolis! Yesterday I fed them a baby carrot. And I found a mousehole right across the street from the vole-bush! I knew it was a mousehole because I saw the mouse running in! So that was good.

In other critter news, "Pepe" the gray cat has apparently been attacking his "Mom", KB, every night as she leaves the bathroom to head into the bedroom! Bad kitty!

R and I enjoyed meeting the doggy from across the alley, whom I'll call "Heart". "Heart" is a petite and alert lab mix, apparently very fast. Hopefully we can get to know her, and her owner better!

This weekend R is heading to a nearby state park with some of his peeps; hopefully he'll have a creature report to share. My friend EK from college shared that there had been a blessing of pets in honor of St Francis day, which sounded pretty cute. This was in the DC area. Our friends J and JS have moved from the frozen lands of AK to SoCal; maybe they'll be able to tell a story or two as well. A big shout out to them!

All right; down to business. Today I will feature a story about two "kissin' cousins", the striped skunk and the least weasel! Other members of the weasel family, known scientifically as Mustelidae, are mink, fishers, and wolverines!

You might recall R and I spotting a weasel running across highway 61 up north this August. And then I saw two striped skunks recently in the field off Broadway avenue.

Both creatures live throughout Canada, the US, and into northern Mexico. Skunks do not like to live further than two miles from a water source. Both the least weasel and striped skunks like open areas with some cover, such as buildings and rock piles.

Mr. Stinkybutt, courtesy of

The two animals are quite different. About the size of a cat, the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is omnivorous, while the least weasel (Mustela nivalis)is a carnivore and is only about ten inches long, tail included.

The Biting Weasel, courtesy of
The least weasel, which I've seen described as "the smallest carnivore" (but what about shrews?) lives wherever rodents live. Weasels eat primarily mice and voles, and are small enough to chase them into their holes, where a sharp bite to the back of the neck finishes them off.

Tan with a white belly in the summer, some northern least weasels turn white in winter! Their range varies from one to three acres for a heavily rodent-populated region to 40 to 60 acres in a less-mouse-ful area. The least weasel will breed year-round, but the frequency of litters is determined by the amount of food available. It seems like the mama weasels take care of the babies solo, carrying them for 35 days, and then teaching them to hunt once they are six to seven weeks old.

Least weasels like to live in larger weasel-holes, and will keep several burrows going, often lined with mouse and vole fur!

To communicate, least weasels will trill and chirp, and will run around in a complicated circular pattern to confuse prey.

In the "ew, gross!" section: Sometimes weasels suffer from a large parasitic worm in their nasal cavity, which puts pressure on their brains, causing them to run around all crazy-like!

Even though the least weasel is a fierce hunter, their small size makes them a tasty meal for hawks, owls, cats, foxes and mink.

While the striped skunk will hunt small mammals like its cousin the weasel, mostly skunks enjoy insects. Seventy percent of a skunks diet is made out of insectoids, along with fish, crustaceans, fruit and carrion.

Skunks don't see as well as weasels, but they have very good hearing. Skunks like to steal burrows from other creatures, too, but they possess long claws on their front paws for digging their own holes as well.

Not surprisingly, skunks use scent as a form of communication. They also will make some noises, including a clicking noise if they are threatened!

Hint: If a skunk is making a clicking noise at you, get your ass out of there!

When a skunk feels it is mortally threatened then it will "turn tail" and spray you with an oily mist, which can reach two to three meters away from its butt. Two glands alongside the anus release the spray, which causes temporary blindness and nausea. And funk!

Hint: My colleague AF says to use Dawn dish detergent if you get sprayed by a skunk. Apparently the tomato soup wash didn't cure her dog of the scent, but did turn it pink!

Males skunks hook it up with many females, but the sexes usually avoid each other, with males staying solitary and females guiding their young. There is usually one breeding period a year, in February or March. After 60 to 77 days gestation, five or six baby skunks are born, blind, deaf and very helpless.

Unfortunately 90% of these yearlings will die in their first winter, even though up to six females and their young will winter together in a burrow. Neither skunks nor least weasels hibernate, but skunks will lay low during the coldest times, coming out to forage on warmer days.

Skunks bold black and white coats aren't designed for camoflage, even though they are nocturnal. Most creatures avoid them because of their stink! The great horned owl is their biggest predator, along with red tailed hawks.

Be careful: If you see a skunk acting funny in the daytime, call the authorities, because skunks are the number one carrier of rabies!

Skunk pelts used to be harvested for fur coats more often than they are now. I don't think my Dad has caught a skunk in his trap, but he did catch a little weasel by accident once! Believe it or not, today skunk oil is de-oderized and used as a perfume base, because of its ability to "stick onto" stuff!

I'm sorry I can't promise you'll see least weasels around; maybe if you're hiking out in the woods. As for the skunk, I'm sure you'll smell them, and they're cute to see trundling along, especially from the safety of your car!

Say it, don't spray it,


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