Among the first things I learnt as a newcomer to the bush was to carefully watch any raven activity. The raven has long been considered by Aboriginal societies as a “Harbinger” or more simply an announcer of that which is to come. As a trapper they would point me to hunter and/or winter kills with all their noisy feeding activity, always a good place to set up for predator trapping. I quickly began paying attention to them everywhere I went.

Eye of the Raven Chris D'Alessandro Dunster Valemount McBride column
Photo courtesy Chris D’Alessandro

The most amazing thing a raven ever showed me turned into a one year long chapter of my life! I was driving Hwy 16 towards McBride when I saw two ravens picking at something that appeared to be alive in the middle of the road. One actually had this little bundle of fur in his talons and was starting to fly away. My curiosity piqued, I slammed on the brakes and made enough noise to cause him to drop what he had. As I approached I could see a dead weasel and what the raven had dropped was a week old baby. He had a little fuzzy coat with a head half the size of his two inch long body, his eyes were closed but he was very much alive. A freshly rototilled field was evidence enough that she was moving her litter across the road.

I picked up the baby and got a baby-doll bottle from the pharmacy and went to see my friends who had goat milk. When we gave him the bottle he grabbed it with both hands and sucked it dry to our amazement. One of the people there gave him a small piece of raw hamburger which he proceeded to inhale like a vacuum cleaner. I remember thinking “Of course! his mother would raise him on regurgitated mice.” This was natural food for him! So I found myself the mother of a short-tail weasel (also called ermine) during the summer of 1984 and the goat milk/hamburger combination was the secret that allowed me to raise him successfully.

Raising a wild predator was one of the most interesting experiences of my life and I realized as he grew that he would eventually have to leave and return to his destiny in the forest.

I began to live trap mice for him as he got older and he learned how to hunt and fend for himself until his gradual release into the wild. The story of “Weasy the Ermine” is far more detailed, actually enough to fill the next column with his exploits, habits and history. That being said, if you have a weasel near or in your house, leave some raw FRESH hamburger on his travel trail, you will never have a mouse in your house as your house will become a habitual part of his circuit. I lived in a mouse infested area and never saw one for almost 2 years, little Weasy wiped them out. So more about his life in the next column and how he transformed from a sweet, helpless, kitten-like angel into a devil with the energy of a tornado, causing sleepless nights, thoughts of murder and all the other attending emotions that some unfortunate parents might experience from time to time with their teenage kids!

Chris D’Alessandro

About this column:

The Eye of the Raven is a forum of interesting and unusual animal tales exploring the viewpoint of the four-legged and feathered members of our community. As a raven lives as long as a human and has incredible eyesight, the forum is based on observations that perhaps only a raven would see in the course of his life, encounters that we as humans are allowed to see only as the veil that hides the mysteries of nature is briefly parted. The forum is open to the accounts of anyone who can articulate an unusual or remarkable encounter with a wild animal under 500 words. It is subject to the editor’s approval. Email [email protected]