Once a month, we’ll chronicle an elusive photographic goal. This month: the weasel.
Have you ever seen a squirrel dart across a road? Me too. Thousands. Except sometimes they’re not squirrels.
In what appears to be a reoccurring theme, my horrible eyesight deprived me of this revelation until I met Jill. Suddenly boring squirrels dashes became possible weasel sightings.
But seeing a weasel and photographing a weasel are two very different things. It’s incredibly hard to capture an image of a weasel, let alone a good one.
I should know.
Years ago, young Simon was offered a chance to find a weasel at a known den site, courtesy of a photographer friend, Dave Shumway. I, of course, turned it down to wait for yet another bear.
Older, wiser Simon hates younger Simon.
After I actually began to process what a rare sight a weasel is – and how difficult they are to photograph – I convinced Jill we should make a sincere effort to find them.
Like my elusive pine marten, we spent hours – days – waiting for weasels at odd locations, receiving perplexed stares from tourists unable to comprehend why we didn’t want to go look for a moose down the road. (On an aside, something I’ve learned in my years of wildlife photography: people LOVE moose. More than anything. I don’t get it.)
But we never had the luck.
Whenever we see weasels – and we see a few every year – they’re darting in front of our car. And they almost always disappear before we can pull safely off the road, across the white line.
The one exception was my 30th Birthday.
Jill and I were driving – with my parents in the car behind us – to our campsite at Norris in Yellowstone National Park. I’d given up on the hope of wildlife photography after the terribly slow day when Jill suddenly slams on the breaks.
The short-tailed weasel does its mad dash across the road and goes into the grass. Jill yells at me to get out of the car, taking pity on my bad birthday photographic luck, hoping I might have an opportunity to see the weasel again.
Whenever you step out of a car in Yellowstone with a telephoto lens, you’re welcoming a jam. People – my parents included – assumed I must have seen a grizzly (for the record, if I had, I would not have left my vehicle). Cars were stopping left, right and centre. And thankfully, as a result, Jill couldn’t navigate her way to a parking spot, allowing her to spot the shifty weasel on a fallen log over Obsidian Creek.
I lift the camera and fire off a shot…
And I really couldn’t have asked for a better sequence. The weasel was in plain sight. It wasn’t – miraculously – running at 100mph. And the light and background were great.
But as I struggled to hand-hold the lens, I could only get one more photo before it was gone. Opportunity missed.
Since that haunting encounter, we’ve spotted weasels in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, on Dunraven Pass, in Sedge Bay and even in Waterton and Jasper National Parks. But I have nothing to show for it.
So if you know of where we can get a photo of a weasel (least weasel, short-tailed weasel, long-tailed weasel: I’m not picky!) please tell me so I can finally move past the best, worst birthday gift ever.
The chase for the weasel is on.