A couple of days ago, I was hugely surprised to have a close encounter with a … “confusion of weasels”! (I am reliably and rather delightfully informed that this is one of the collective terms for a group). Very appropriate as it turns out!
I was driving back from Hay-on-Wye with my Mum, and after leaving the village of Govilon just before the turn off up the mountain to Blaenavon, a group of up to about 8 shot across the road right in front of us causing me and the oncoming cars to brake hard to miss them. Fortunately they seemed to realise they had made a big mistake in choosing that route and in a series of about-turns and tumbles scrambled back the way they had come for the grass verge!
There are other terms for the collective apparently. They can also be called a “nate of weasels”, a “gang” , a “pack” or a “boogle”.
I had always assumed these were solitary animals, so having pricked my curiosity, I have done a little research. In fact, males and females do live apart and when they come together to mate, it is a rather aggressive affair. They can produce up to 8 kittens and 2 litters a year but Dad takes no interest once he’s had his wicked way! The kittens grow very fast and are able to kill at 8 weeks old, when they will often go out hunting with their mother. So this seems to be what we encountered. Weasels will travel up to 2.5 km on a hunt. They mainly eat mice and voles and need to eat 1/4 to 1/3 their body weight a day to survive. No wonder they have a reputation for taking no prisoners! They’ve even been known to take down rabbits.
The weasel is the smallest carnivore in Britain. Males grow up to about 11 inches from nose to tail. Females are a bit smaller at about 8.5 to 9 inches. They are reddish brown with white underbellies.
The name is derived from the Proto-Germanic wisand meaning stinky animal. They are actually related to skunks and raccoons.