Animal weasels its way into Kenai police headquarters

Posted: Friday, September 15, 2000

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- The subject was barricaded in the Kenai Police headquarters, stated the press release issued to the local media. He was brazen, maybe foolhardy, but one lucky little weasel.

A short-tailed weasel, to be exact.

Common in Alaska, they usually dine al fresco on voles and small birds. This bold specimen sneaked into the Kenai Police dispatch center Wednesday.

He stole smoked salmon out of a trap and spent the better part of the day darting across the floor, hissing and hiding under baseboards before several officers shooed him out the front door.

''I don't think it ever really was terrified or anything. It wasn't in high gear when it left,'' said police Lt. Jeff Kohler.

Kohler admitted writing the tongue-in-cheek press release, which continued, ''An ermine stormed the communications center and barricaded itself under electronic equipment. The suspect refused to negotiate.''

The ermine, or short-tailed weasel, still was in its brown summer fur. The narrow-bodied, 10-inch-long ferret-like predators turn white in winter. This one had more tricks than the porcupine that shuffled through the front door of the police station this summer and ''was trying crawl up the chair and onto the counter when it got shooed out,'' Kohler said.

The weasel stumped dispatchers, police and Bill Godek, the city's chief animal control officer, for hours.

Godek got his first call about 6 a.m. The weasel was hiding under a baseboard heater behind a bank of electronics. Godek first put a net over an exit hole and tried to scare the weasel in that direction by having a firefighter aim an air compressor under the baseboard.

''All that did was blow a lot of dust in my face,'' Godek said. ''I'm not exactly a weasel expert.''

Then Godek brought in a live-animal trap that routinely captures squirrels. The weasel took the bait -- smoked salmon -- but easily squeezed through the cage's one-inch mesh to escape.

They then tried a smaller cage, but the door was too slow. The weasel was in and out with the bait and back under the baseboard heater before the trap closed, Godek said.

Then some officers turned up the heat and started banging on the baseboard. That sent the weasel darting down the hall into a file storage room, Kohler said. By then it was mid-afternoon and about a half-dozen department employees were involved.

They placed rows of boxes and trash cans down the hallway, creating a corridor from the storage room to the front door. It worked.

''It was last seen southbound on Willow Street,'' Kohler said.

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