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Weasels in the Garden: Part II

You’ll be pleased to hear that at least five of last year’s kits survived to independence and two remained in the garden well in to the autumn. One of these was a male ‘Mr Two Spots’, who I named after the markings under his chin. These could only be seen when he stretched out his neck.

The following Spring, as the breeding season approached, I began to get anxious. I wanted a female to pair up with Mr Two Spots. Not much is known about the courting behaviour of weasels and there was no knowing whether he would stay in the territory and lure a female in, or go off elsewhere to find a mate. Then a female appeared on the scene. And it was literally love at first sight! The two weasels curled up in the nesting boxes in loved-up bliss, chittering affectionately together quite endearingly. Watch them here:

 

Previous research suggests that weasels show intra-sexual territoriality – in other words that adult females exclude other females, and males exclude other males – but that the larger ranges of males include those of one or more females.

Two Spots and Teasel seemed inseparable – there was no chance at all that Two Spots could have had another female elsewhere. Indeed, in comparison with the brutal courtship I observed last year, between Mr Two Spots mother and his aggressive father, the tender relationship between Mr Two Spots and Teasel was remarkable. And it was Teasel who made all the advances, mounting and mock-matingTwo Spots as he dozed and attempting to stir him to action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, Two Spots seemed to experience a surge of testosterone. His testicles were huge! Purple and so swollen he could barely hold his tail down. His behaviour changed and the two lovers fought. Teasel was evicted and Two Spots’ newfound aggression kept her away from the feeding boxes. However, I was hopeful that having seen all the mating inside the nesting box that Teasel was pregnant and I held my breath for late May when I hoped she would be giving birth to kits inside one of the nesting chambers rigged with cameras.

And then both weasels disappeared. I thought I had lost them. Teasel eventually returned but there was no sign that she was pregnant. She was slim and lithe and very different from the weasel pregnancy I had observed the previous year with Mr Two Spot’s mother, who couldn’t make it in and out of the entrance holes to my boxes. Then on the very day Teasel was supposed to give birth a new male appeared on the scene. He was much bigger, with pale fur that was beginning to moult around the shoulders. I called him Caramac.



The first time he appeared on camera in the nest box, he met Teasel in the entrance tunnel and forced her back inside. He cornered her in the box, sunk his teeth into the scruff of her neck and proceeded to mate her for more than two hours in a protracted and violent coupling. This was much more aggressive that the tender approach of Mr Two Spots!

Scientific research has shown that weasels are induced ovulators – the act of mating stimulates the release of eggs from the ovary. Within weeks Teasel’s belly had swollen. She looked like a string with a very knot in it. You can almost see the kits moving inside her. And now I am awaiting her due date of around 19th June 2016 with baited breath. I’m hoping she gives birth in one of my nesting boxes so that I can see the kits as they arrive. But even if she doesn’t she’s likely to movethem at some point and I will get a chance to look in on the incredible process again.If you are ever up in North Yorkshire – do call into my gallery at Thixendale (see www.robertefuller.com) where you can follow the action for yourselves in the live screens playing in my gallery! The next few months should be incredible.

Hope you enjoyed watching the episode.

About: The Weasel World that is my back garden!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone recently described my back garden as Weasel Big Brother. I call it Weasel Town myself, but the description is quite apt. Looking back, the tricks I used to photograph and film the weasels when I saw Mr Two Spot’s mother for the very first time were quite archaic compared to the rig up I have now. Then, I relied on a mirror in the garden and a string attached to a piece of wood wired to the food I left the weasel – this set off a bell in my studio.

Of course I also used, and still do, the warnings let out by the song birds in my garden. Blackbirds are the best at sounding the alarm when a weasel is on the prowl. But as the weasel sightings became more reliable I began to make some major
alterations. I built weasel walkways along logs piles and hedges and even through scaffold pipes and hollow logs. I also built two drystone walls and in front of one I dug a reflection pool as an attractive foreground for my a new painting I’m planning.

 

And recently I’ve added a new hide connected to my living room via a tunnel so that I can move from one to the other without being spotted. The entire back garden is wired with cameras. In the corridor leading to the hide, I’ve mounted a large wooden box to the wall. It contains a cosy nest chamber, accessed from the outside at ground level. The chamber is lined with hay and lit with LEDs so I can film in full colour and HD, so illumination is essential.

And inside is a heat pad. Nothing but luxury for my weasels. After all I want to make sure the weasels stay here.

 

 

 

 Read how I first attracted a weasel into my garden here: https://wp.me/p8r2U4-K

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