Something is living under our garden shed. Our dog heard it and now sniffing around there is one of her first stops in the yard.

She no doubt knows what animal is there, but she’s not talking.

I hope it’s a weasel and I get a good look at it sometime. I’ve gotten fleeting looks at weasels elsewhere as they turn and dive behind rocks or wood or into holes.

I know a weasel is possible because a decade ago a fellow Linwood resident described seeing a weasel staggering around and unconcerned about his presence. Weasels can contract rabies, although they’re not a major vector for the disease, so we wondered whether that was the case.

We have plenty of weasel food in the neighborhood, including voles, moles, mice, shrews, chipmunks and rabbits.

The long-tailed weasel is a small but fierce predator, about 3 pounds and 18 inches long.

My National Audubon field guide says it grabs its prey at the base of the skull and curls its slinky body around it, grasping the victim with its forelimbs.

It proceeds to eat the head first, then the trunk, and caches the rest for future meals.

That would surely rank among the gruesome but fascinating predations I’ve seen, such as a red-tailed hawk taking apart a squirrel and a peregrine falcon’s leisurely meal of a yellowleg. It’s not something you wish for, but hard not to look when encountered.

The weasel’s habit of storing food allows it to become a major pest for those raising chickens or guinea hens. Weasels will go on a killing spree when plenty of prey is available, giving it an advantage over other predators and making it the bane of farmers.

The greatest weasel advantage, though, is the ability to go down into the slender burrows where its prey escapes other predators.

That has made the long-tailed weasel the most widely distributed carnivore in the Western Hemisphere, and also provided it with plenty of pre-dug burrows to confiscate for its own homes.

Shopping waxwings

Melanie Marhefka, of Somers Point, recently spotted a flock of cedar waxwings eating berries at the ShopRite Shopping Center on Ocean Heights Avenue in town.

She has also noticed them near the dollar store, in front of the dry cleaners, and out at Consumer Square in Mays Landing. There they were eating black berries, perhaps black chokeberries.

One of our loveliest perching birds with a fine black mask outlined white, tail dipped in yellow and silky smooth brown/gray plumage, cedar waxwings are voracious fruit eaters and often oblivious to people nearby when feasting.

“There is nothing more beautiful than the cedar waxwing and to see them so close up at this time of year gladdens my heart!” Marhefka wrote.

Contact Kevin Post:

609-272-7250