The least weasel, common weasel, a little weasel, or simply weasel, is the smallest member of the genus Mustela, family Mustelidae and order Carnivora.
It is native to North America, Eurasia, and North Africa. It has been introduced to Malta, New Zealand, Bermuda, Crete, Madeira Island, the Canary Islands, the Azores, the Falkland Islands, São Tomé, Chile, and Argentina. It is classified as the least concern by the IUCN due to its extensive distribution and comprehensive population in numerous countries north of the equator.
Description of a Weasel
The least weasel has a greatly elongated, thin, and incredibly flexible body with a tiny yet long, blunt-muzzled head, which is no thicker than their neck. The eyes are tinier compared to their head size and are dark-colored and bulging. The tail and legs are relatively short, the latter constituting almost less than half the body length. The feet have dark-colored, sharp claws, and the soles are densely haired.
Reproduction and Diet
The least weasel normally mates in April–August, and there is a 30- to 40-day gestation stage. In the Northern Region, the normal litter size consists of 4-6 kits, and these reach sexual maturity within 3 to 4 months.
The least weasel loves eating mouse-like rodents, including hamsters, mice, gerbils, and others. It normally does not attack adult rats and hamsters. Fish, frogs, bird eggs, and small birds are rarely eaten. It can deal with gerbils and adult pikas but usually cannot overcome sousliks and brown rats.
The little weasel is adapted for tracking its prey down tunnels, though it may also bolt its’ prey from a burrow and kill it on the surface in the open. The least weasel exterminates small prey, such as voles, with a bite to the occipital region of the neck or the skull, completely dislocating the cervical vertebrae.
Here are fun facts about the least weasel.
- The little weasels often prey on animals larger than themselves.
- Much like their skunk cousins, weasels release foul-smelling discharges from their anal glands as a defense mechanism and maybe even to mark their territory.
- The least weasel is excellently adapted to live the life of a lonely hunter. With his flexible, long spine, his whole body becomes a fastener, squeezing the prey. His canines and jaws are like a lion—able to pierce the skull with ease. He pauses only long enough to hog the brains—his equivalent of a human energy bar.
- A group of weasels may be referred to as a “confusion,” “boogle,” “pack,” and “gang.”
- Some little weasel species have a coat that varies color; in the winter, their fur will turn white to mingle in with the snow. This is often referred to in the biology world as the “ermine” phase.
Now You Know