"I saw the weasel"

By Katie Roloson
For those of you who have worked in environmental education, at a summer camp, or with kids you may have played the game, “Bob the Weasel.”
You stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, with one person in the middle. The outside circle passes an object – the weasel – around behind their backs while chanting, “Bob the weasel keep it going, keep it going” and the person in the middle tries to guess where the weasel is. At any point in the passing you can taunt the person in the middle by raising the weasel over your head – if you can get away with it – and everyone who sees the weasel says, “I saw the weasel.” The kids love this game and you can use it to teach them about weasels and their behavior. Weasels try to stay hidden from view, especially from overhead predators like Eagles by traveling illusively under downed wood, brush and vegetation. This helps them surprise their next meal and protects them. Every once in while you will see a weasel pop out of nowhere and then quickly disappear under cover.
I saw a weasel!
I was sitting on my couch absorbed in some busy work when my furry friend decided to show up. It stood on its back legs and put its paws up against the glass door, peering into my house. It is times like this I wish I could go all “Doctor Dolittle.” I could have easily opened the door up for the little guy and we could have chatted over some tea. Actually, it was so cute I just wanted to pick it up and make it my National Park pet. Instead I sat motionless and watched as it moved around on my porch. When it looked away I quickly grabbed my camera and managed to snap a few photos while it posed for the camera. Then it retreated quickly into the woods.
Weasel is a general term that refers to animals in the Mustelid family. Members of this family have special musk glands (similar to a skunk) that make them smell. If you know someone who has a ferret for a pet you might have noticed its unique body odor. Weasels also have long slender bodies that allow them to bound about quickly and squeeze into tiny places like tunnels to get to their prey or hide.

Pine Marten on porch of staff housing

They are opportunists, which means that they will take advantage of, whatever they can find, which is why you might find these animals near buildings in a rural setting. Humans tend to have tempting smells and treats that a weasel could totally take advantage of, given the opportunity. Weasels are known for getting into things and have received a reputation of being mischievous. In fact, a curious marten scared the facial hair off our chef dumping some food scraps into our composting tubs a few days after my sighting. It was dark and it darted right by him.
The weasel I saw was a Pine Marten. During my time here at the Learning Center I have also seen a short-tailed weasel, long-tailed weasel and other martens on campus. The long tailed weasel is much tinier than the marten and it appeared one day near the dining hall. It moved along the dining hall porch like a bounding inch worm. Then it jumped up onto the railing and launched itself off into the vegetation. I was amazed by its quickness and agility.
The short tailed weasel I saw while out on a run. I heard some sparrows alarming and noticed that they were not alarming at me. I investigated where they were alarming to see this weasel moving quickly along the talus slope. It was tugging a vole along in its mouth and then pulled it into a hole. It was nice enough to pop its head out of the hole again to give me a second look. Actually, I think the weasel wanted to get a second look at me. Weasels seem just as curious as I am, which if I were anthropomorphizing I would say they are the perfect animal counterpart to a Pacific Northwest naturalist.

Photos courtesy of Katie Roloson.


  1. Meghann Willard

    If you have another Dr. Dolittle please tell the Pine Marten to make an appearance at graduation. That would be awesome!! :o) I miss living in the National Park.

  2. Heather Durham

    I saw the weasel! I saw the weasel!

  3. Katie Trujillo

    I still cannot believe this! Its like seeing the tooth fairy… finally!

  4. Kate Bedient

    After all of the talk, they really DO exist!!

  5. frances ambrose

    I saw the weasel! What a great game description. But nothing matches seeing the pine marten exploring the compost/waste area in broad daylight. What a curious creature. And what wonderful ears! I hope she/he will continue to delight the humans with more visits.

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