The long-tailed weasel: El Paso’s rarely seen fearless predator of the night

By Rick LoBello, Board Member

The long-tailed weasel is one of the rarest predators living here in the Chihuahuan Desert. As a result of their nocturnal lifestyle very few people have ever seen one, but they are out there hunting for rodents and other small prey including shrews, ground squirrels, pocket gophers, woodrats, cotton rats, harvest mice, and small cottontails. They will also eat small birds, reptiles and insects and are excellent tree climbers.

The subspecies of the long-tailed weasel found in El Paso, Mustela frenata neomexicana, ranges from the southeast corner of Colorado, western Oklahoma, the western third of Texas, eastern and southern New Mexico and south into most of western Mexico. Of all the color variations of the long-tailed weasel neomexicana is one of the most distinctive and colorful with a black face and white spot between eyes, a broad black band on each side of head between ear and eye and white on chin.

If you should see a long-tailed weasel in El Paso consider yourself extremely lucky. I have seen only two over the past 40 years. Both were in Big Bend National Park near the entrance to Croton Springs. One was crossing the road and the other was a road kill.

The photograph below is a long-tailed weasel at a El Paso wildlife rescue center.

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