[Tweeters] Water Weasels and Aquatic Squirrels

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Aug 11 14:14:49 PDT 2013

I enjoyed seeing Marc Hoffman's nice photo of a Mink a few days ago. I figured that's what it was when I first read his post about seeing a wet weasel. While not the same genus as what we call weasels (think of all the genera we call thrushes) it pretty much is a weasel, family- wise. Sure looks like one.

I'd like to clear up that little problem by renaming the mink. Mink? What's up with that! I propose the new name Water Weasel, which is fairly accurate, and fun to say. Plus it might help clear up that mink coat issue: can you imagine some debutante about to go out on the town asking her date, " I say Biff, shall I wear my water weasel to the opera tonight?" It don't sound too good, and could help put an end to that fad.

The whole thing reminds me of sightings of unexpected swimming creatures. Hey, remember that young Black Bear that swam clear across Puget Sound a few years ago? And sometime boaters in the Islands are surprised to find swimming deer far from shore, swimming off to another island to eat.

Several years ago I was quietly paddling down the Little Wenatchee River when I spotted a small mammalian head cruising through the water, crossing the river. " Aw" I thought, "it's a little baby muskrat!". Imagine my surprise, when the little guy, upon reaching a tangle of branches emerging from the water, jumped out and quickly clambered up six feet and shook itself off - a Douglas Squirrel! I'd never seen a swimming squirrel before. And then, a few meanders farther downstream, I saw another one! The river at this point was about 30-40 ft wide, and deep all the way. Those squirrels really cruised right along.

Wondering what they were up to in this large expanse of deciduous swamp jungle (more typical fir and pine forest habitat a ways off) I imagined it might be to score on one exceptionally tall and massive Grand Fir, towering in isolation over the swamp. This tree must have been visible to squirrels for miles around, and loaded with cones as it was, might have fired up some cone lust in these conifer squirrels. Clarks Nutcrackers were already up there. Maybe these squirrels just liked swimming. It was kinda hot.

Who knows.

The West end of Lake Wenatchee is an exceptional wildlife spot, especially for canoe and kayak folks. This time of year is great because there's lot of birds, and not too many mosquitoes. Plus the water flow's are down a bit - at least on the Little Wenatchee, which is easy to paddle up, on its many intriguing meanders, for a mile or more. Some interesting 'westside" birds I've seen here are Band-tailed Pigeon ( in mid August gorging out on the Douglas Hawthorn fruits), and also Green Heron's (what seemed to be 2 adults - though it might've only been one) several years ago. In mid August, especially on a good fruit year (red-twig dogwood being another huge producer) the streamside swamps can be full of Vireos (lots of Warbling and Red-eye) Warblers, Waxwings, Catbirds, etc.

Lots of mammals too - including Water Weasels and Aquatic Squirrels.

Jeff Gibson

Everett Wa

More information about the Tweeters mailing list