I had just pulled out of Bolton Flats Wildlife Management Area in Bolton, when something on the side of the road caught my eye. “A weasel on the road – let’s get it,” I exclaimed, excited by the prospect of scientific discovery.
Making my way safely back on the busy road, my husband asked me, “Why do you want to pick it up?” I replied, “It’s not often you see a dead weasel in decent condition for scientific analysis and I can record this on the roadkill website for Mass Wildlife.”
While I’m sure his eyes rolled, all he asked was if I had a plastic bag for the carcass. After pulling off the road and flicking on the hazard lights, I grabbed my gloves and a plastic bag, hustled up to the carcass and placed it carefully in the bag. It was a male weasel with a slightly flattened skull, but the rest of the animal was in good condition. At home, I laid it out in the garage and took a few images with a ruler in place.
There are two species of weasels in Massachusetts, the Long-tailed weasel and the Short-tailed weasel. The ruler helped determine which kind of weasel I had collected. Both species are common and are often referred to as ermine when in their white winter coats. Though often found in Massachusetts, weasels are not always seen.
After wrapping the weasel securely in the bag and placing it in a small cooler with an ice pack, my last action was to visit the Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife website. This website is part of a long-term collaboration by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Transportation to minimize the impact of the existing road network on rare and non-game wildlife, while improving highway safety.
Part of the effort involves data collection about wildlife on roads. Interested citizens can submit their observations of wildlife in three categories: general wildlife roadkills, amphibian migrations to temporary spring pools and turtle crossing hotspots.
It’s easy to submit the information for the general wildlife roadkills: give your name and email address, click on a Google map to record the exact location, identify the animal in the list given or – if it’s not there like the weasel I found – provide the information in the Comment box, hit the Submit button and you’ve just made a contribution to wildlife science! With the warm weather coming and spring rains, it’s a great time to watch for salamanders, frogs and other amphibians crossing roads to spawn in vernal pools. So find some crossings and submit the data to the website but be sure of your safety on the roads.