Kolonok, or Siberian weasel, is a small mammal belonging to the weasel family of the genus ferrets and weasels. The predatory representative of the wild fauna is very similar in its genetic characteristics to the European mink, so they are often referred to the same subgenus. Currently, in the natural environment, there are two subspecies of the column – Sakhalin (itatsi) and Japanese.
The animal has an elongated physique, reaching up to 60 centimeters. Weight does not exceed 700 — 800 grams. The body is very flexible and mobile with a fluffy tail up to 20 cm. On short legs, between the fingers, there are poorly developed membranes. The muzzle is pointed brown in color with white spots in the nose area, with a mustache sticking out to the sides and expressive eyes. Small pointed ears.
The color of the coat changes depending on the time of year. Autumn molt occurs in early November. In winter, the coat becomes reddish-yellow. In winter, the fur of the column is very thick and soft, which makes it possible to withstand any frost. The period of spring molting is March-May, the fur becomes reddish, but less dense and fluffy. The tail fur is more pronounced in color than on the back and abdomen.
During the spring and autumn molting, the old wool cover falls to shreds from the sides and from the back, and bald spots form in this place. Kolonok, like all animals of the marten genus, is capable of making various sounds – whistling, chirping, and, in case of impending danger, hissing. Females of the column are distinguished by particular aggression during the period of bearing and feeding their offspring.
The area of residence of the column is quite extensive. The animal perfectly adapted in the Far East region, in the Urals, in the Siberian taiga, Yakutia in the regions of Primorye. In the European part of Russia, columns are rare. The animal develops the territory on which coniferous or deciduous forests grow. He does not like open spaces and prefers wilderness, where there are reservoirs, rivers with sandy banks overgrown with shrubs.
It is found on mountain plateaus located more than 1500 meters above sea level. Sometimes the column is forced to settle near small settlements, in the vicinity of cities, where you can always hunt poultry, rats and mice. This phenomenon is dictated by forced migration due to the lack of sufficient food or the intrusion of people into its territory.
Kolonok is a predatory and omnivorous animal. Its diet includes all breeds of small rodents living in the same territory with it. He successfully trades on mice, voles, hamsters, chipmunks and jerboas. But having small physical data columns can also hunt larger animals – hares, squirrels. When chasing potential prey, columns can develop quite a lot of speed.
Kolonok is not afraid of water and can swim well. Therefore, it is easy to get food for itself in the waters of rivers and natural reservoirs. The animal preys on muskrats, frogs, is even able to catch fish and does not shun insects and their larvae. In the hungry time, the columns can eat nuts, various berries and even carrion. Sparrows, capercaillie, black grouse and hazel grouse are also included in the column menu.
Kolonok leads a sedentary life, settles in abandoned alien burrows or in empty tree hollows. It can easily live under the roots of fallen trees and under a rotting pile of deadwood and windbreak. In addition to the main dwelling, the speaker necessarily uses other shelters that are scattered throughout his hunting estate. Sensing the danger, the speaker hides in its temporary dwellings.
The speaker prefers to lead a night life. The energy of a mammal increases with sunset and dusk. In search of food, he is not limited to his own territory and hunting can cover a distance of more than ten kilometers. An excellent hunter, able to catch up with prey even in deep snow. Kolonok does not hibernate, and endures severe frost in a shelter, where it can stay for several days.
The wild animal loves loneliness, but from the beginning of March to the end of April, a period of rapprochement of individuals begins. Between the males there is a fierce struggle for the possession of the female they like. The female bears offspring for 35-40 days, at the same time there are from 4 to 10 cubs in one brood. The female arranges in advance a nest of wool, foliage, moss, dry grass for her offspring.
A caring mother, leaving to hunt, throws a nest with cubs with dry moss, grass and leaves. The offspring develops and grows within a month. Babies begin to see, become covered with fur, and a peculiar color appears on their faces. In the diet of the brood, organic food appears – small rodents and insects. Fathers do not take care of the offspring, which leaves their home in the fall. The life expectancy of a column in the natural environment is from 2-4 years.
Although the speaker is a predatory animal, it also becomes a victim of hawks, owls, eagles, and owls. Lynxes, foxes, wolves, ferrets prey on the column. The most terrible enemy for him is the sable. The column has to fight a dangerous predator for its territory and food. A real war for the survival of the column is with the minks that live in the neighborhood. And the one who managed to defeat the opponent becomes the owner of the territory.
The world of fauna is cruel, the strongest survive in it. The column population continues to decline. The small predator is forced out by the sable, which claims its habitat. Already in the vast expanses of the plain and mountainous taiga massif in the southeastern part of Western Siberia, it has now become almost impossible to meet the column. Hunting for sable on an industrial scale is strictly regulated and the predator, displacing the column, continues to expand its living space.
There are very few of the Sakhalin counterpart “itatsi” in wildlife. According to studies conducted by ornithologists in the 1970s of the last century, the number of the Sakhalin column, there were only about two hundred and fifty individuals. In order to preserve the population of the column, which is endangered, the forest dweller is listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Buryatia.
The column can live in captivity, as practice shows, even up to 6 years, its life expectancy increases. More recently, farms for artificial breeding columns were created. But the production turned out to be unprofitable, the quality of kolinsky fur is inferior to mink fur, which is much more profitable to breed for commercial purposes. But artists cannot do without a brush made of kolinsky hairs.