Orland resident Valerie Hill’s friends and family know her as an animal person, which is why it made sense when a friend called Monday morning asking her to remove a wild critter from the house.
What Hill didn’t expect was to be asked to remove an angry weasel from the inside of a living room recliner.
“That’s just not the phone call you ever expect you’re going to get,” she said. “But I’m the animal person, so off we went.”
We typically only encounter weasels in the wild. Weasels are known for their curiosity and playfulness, and can often be found sniffing around wood piles or exploring garages — or, to the dismay of homesteaders, having a delicious chicken dinner, straight from the coop. Rarely do they actually make it inside a house.
Sara Bair, who requested Hill’s help, didn’t know how to handle the situation. Her late father had always been the one to deal with animal control issues, but without him, she needed to call in backup.
“When we woke up to the screeches of a weasel, we had no idea what to do,” Bair said. “Val came over with some professional-looking weasel-fighting gloves. Thank God for tough women. Val also fought off a bat for me once, but that’s another story.”
The short-tailed weasel, also known as an ermine or stoat, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, is relatively common in Maine. In the warmer months, it has a brown coat, but as winter arrives, it turns to pure white, camouflaging it in the snow. Despite their small size, they are ferocious predators that hunt rodents, frogs and insects, and they must eat two-thirds of their body weight daily in order to meet their dietary needs.
Hill and her husband Earl came into the living room to find the chair tipped over on its side, with the animal scurrying about inside. She brought her arm-length bite-proof gloves, which she uses to handle her pet snakes.
At first, Hill tried to grab the weasel while it was inside the chair, but the little creature was too fast for her. She then began poking around with a wooden spoon, trying to force it out of the chair so it would be easier to catch. At first, the weasel was more interested in biting the spoon, but eventually her plan worked.
“He finally made a break for it and ran into the bathroom,” Hill said. “He was skittering around in the tub, trying to figure out how to get out. He was really mad.”
Hill safely grabbed the weasel with both hands, and she and her husband and the weasel ran out to the car and jumped in, with a plan to take the animal down the road to a wooded area and set him free.
It was then they learned the hard way that weasels, like most of their cousins in the Mustelid family of animals including skunks and fishers, have a very odorous musk.
“It’s really smelly, as you might expect. Not quite like a skunk, but still really pungent,” she said. “Honestly, it kind of smells like very cheap marijuana. I’m lucky it was just on my gloves and not on the car.”
The pair drove the furious, smelly weasel a few minutes down the road to the banks of the Orland River. Hill rolled down the window and deposited the creature outside.
“I just kind of gently tossed it out the window. He definitely needed to go,” she said.
Without her bite-proof gloves, Hill said she’d likely have been seriously injured by the creature.
“He just wanted to bite everyone and everything,” she said. “I get it, but they are also just so cute, with those big black eyes and their little white face. But he definitely did not belong in the living room.”
Hill said that while she’s not a professional wildlife handler, she was happy to help a friend.
“That’s true friendship right there,” she said. “When someone asks you to get an angry weasel out of their recliner, you help them.”