Weasel

It is hard to imagine that such a small and cute creature as a weasel is a fearless and agile predator, and the smallest in the whole world. Weasel belongs to the weasel family. By nature, she is not at all affectionate. Why the animal has such a name is still a mystery. Maybe it is based on the pleasant appearance of this most interesting animal.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Weasel

Photo: Laska

Making a digression into history, it is worth noting that in the Ancient Roman Empire and medieval Europe, weasel was started as a pet, which was a tireless hunter for field mice. Later, it was replaced by cats and ferrets, this happened, apparently, because the animal did not completely become domesticated and could not cope with the big rats that flooded the cities at that time.

Weasel – the smallest predator, belongs to the genus called “weasels and ferrets.” It lives in the northern hemisphere of the Earth, inhabiting all its continents. The mass of males in rare cases exceeds 250 grams, and females are much smaller. The figure of the weasel is elongated and graceful. Species living in different countries differ slightly from each other in their characteristic external features.

The following varieties of these animals can be distinguished:

  • ordinary weasel;
  • long-tailed weasel;
  • Amazonian weasel;
  • Colombian weasel;
  • white-striped weasel;
  • hollowfooted weasel;
  • North African weasel;
  • South African weasel;
  • Patagonian weasel.

We will then dwell on the external features of the common weasel in more detail, and now we will give some distinguishing features of other species. The long-tailed weasel inhabits both North America and the northern part of South America. This species differs in rather large sizes from 23 to 35 cm, and the weight can reach up to 340 grams. From above, it has a brown tint, and the abdomen is white with yellowness.

In winter, it changes its fur coat to snow-white, but the tip of its tail still remains black.

The Amazonian weasel settled in Brazil and eastern Peru. Its color is brown-red, the color is lighter below than on the back. It has a black stripe that runs along the entire abdomen. The feet of such a weasel are bare. Dimensions are also very large – about 32 cm in length. The Colombian weasel is found in the mountains of Colombia. It is smaller than the previous two. The length reaches 22 cm. The color is more saturated, dark chocolate in color, and yellowish below. It has webs on its paws.

Video: Weasel

The white-striped weasel is an inhabitant of Indochina and Nepal. It has a chocolate color on top, decorated with a light stripe stretching along the entire back. She has light fur on her upper lip, chin and neck. This animal is distinguished by a very fluffy tail. The bare-footed weasel inhabits southeast Asia. An interesting predator with its unusual coloring. She is a bright fiery (red) color, and her head is white.

The name makes it clear where the North African weasel lives. It attracts attention with an unusual color and increased shaggyness. The color of the animal is black and white. The black muzzle with a white border stands out especially beautifully. The South African weasel lives in the driest places. The animal is very large. It weighs from 250 to 350 g and has a length of up to 35 cm. This weasel also has a very interesting color. The back of the animal is lined with black and white stripes, and the upper part of the head appears to be wearing a white cap. Bottom color is black.

The Patagonian weasel lives in Chile and Argentina. Her color, on the contrary, is light on top – beige-gray, and below – brown. The length can reach up to 35 cm. As you can see, in various species, the coat color and size are slightly different, this is influenced by their permanent place of residence, but the common features in all species and body structure, of course, are identical.

Appearance and Features

Photo: Animal weasel

Photo: Animal weasel

As for the weasel, then it is very small in size. Males are 160 to 260 mm long, and females are 111 to 212 mm long. Weasel also weighs a little: males – from 60 to 250 g, and females – from 30 to 108. The body of the animal is elongated and graceful, on short little legs, armed with sharp claws.

The head is small, when you look at the weasel, it is noticeable that its neck is much more powerful and wider than the head. The ears of the animal are rounded, the eyes are small, round, like shiny black beads. Nature did not reward the weasel with a fluffy and long tail, so she has a very small one – from 1.5 to 8 cm. The color of the tail is always the same as that of the back. Under the weasel’s tail, special glands are hidden, exuding a pungent aroma, with which it marks its territory.

The coat color of the animal changes at different times of the year. In summer, the back of the weasel is from light brown to dark chocolate in color, and the belly is light – white or slightly yellowish. In winter, the weasel acquires a snow-white fur coat, on which only her black curious little eyes stand out. Both in summer and winter, the fur remains thick, but in winter the fur is longer and the hairs are thick. Changing the color of the coat helps the weasel to better camouflage and go unnoticed at certain times of the year.

Zoologists note that the weasel is very similar in appearance to the ermine, only it is larger in size.

Where does the weasel live?

Photo: Weasel Animal

Photo: Weasel Animal

Weasels can be found on all continents of the northern hemisphere of the Earth.

It lives in:

  • Eurasia;
  • North America;
  • in North West Africa.

This small predator spread over various territories quite extensively. In our country, this restless predator can be seen everywhere, except for the high snow-capped mountains and the Arctic. In those places where small rodents live, their miniature exterminator also settles there. Weasel lives in forests, steppe zones, forest-steppes, tundra, in desert arid regions, in mountainous and swampy places, near water bodies and even near human dwellings. The animal is not afraid even of large cities, where it can also meet.

Weasel does not build special special structures for living. She may choose a barn, an old hole of some rodent, an abandoned hollow. Even a woodcutter can become her refuge. Weasel settles between stones, large tree roots, in various ruins. Weasel ennobles its shelters, lining them with fluffy moss, dry wood, fern branches.

It is interesting that in the territory where the animal lives, it necessarily has several such shelters. He provides all this in advance, in case of danger. If suddenly someone disturbs or frightens the weasel, she will move to another dwelling. Animals are especially careful when they are nursing their young.

What does a weasel eat?

Photo: Weasel in the snow

Photo: Weasel in the snow

The most favorite delicacy of a predator, which she can tirelessly get all night long, are all kinds of mice. She destroys them mercilessly and in huge quantities. Weasel does not disdain shrews, the remains of larger animals. Can catch small birds. He loves to drink eggs, making holes in the shell with his sharp teeth. Weasel also copes with rats, hamsters, jerboas, moles, rabbits. Eats lizards, snakes, insects, frogs, loves fish. This chicken hunter simply adores chickens, in search of which she guts entire chicken coops.

Weasel is a very dexterous, quirky, strong, fearless predator. She moves remarkably in the crowns of trees, swims well, runs fast, so her hunting is always very productive. Due to its small size, the weasel itself climbs into the hole of its victim and pinches it right in its own home. Sometimes the weasel eats its prey right at the scene of the crime, but often it can drag it to its lair to have a quiet meal.

Sometimes the victim is very weighty, but this does not stop the caress, it is very strong and still drags it to its territory. The weasel kills the caught prey masterfully, with its sharp teeth it bites through the back of the skull. If a huntress discovers an entire mouse family underground, she will not rest until she completely destroys it all. Even if the weasel has eaten, she continues to hunt, forming entire warehouses of dead mice in her possessions. Such a stock may contain up to 30 or more dead rodents. Fortunately, there are several shelters on the territory of the animal, and she uses one of them as a pantry.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Weasel in Summer

Photo: Weasel in Summer

The size of the territory where the weasel lives can reach up to 10 hectares, but usually they are much smaller. Since the animal is very active, quirky, courageous and hardy, it can easily find food for itself even in a small area. Weasels can form entire colonies, but mostly live alone.

Animals prefer settled life, do not like to leave their places of permanent deployment. The male has to do this when he is looking for a mate.

The weasel prefers to hunt at dusk and at night, but the animal is active around the clock. One can simply envy such vital energy, which is in full swing. These predators are very nimble, lively and wayward. They move in small jumps. During the day, the animal can overcome up to 2 km. The reaction of affection is simply lightning fast, for a small rodent its grip is deadly.

It would seem that it only benefits a person, inexorably exterminating entire mouse hordes, but people themselves are afraid of this robber. The fact is that weasel can visit a chicken coop, exterminate poultry, and she simply loves chickens. There were cases when weasel stole fish caught by fishermen. This only happens when the predator lacks food in the wild.

We can say that the character of this animal is independent, the temper is brave and cocky. The lifestyle is very energetic. In general, nature measured out not such a long life span for her, it is only five years, but the weasel dies much earlier, often without even reaching a year, so this tireless little one needs to do a lot of things. Weasel lives so little because of all kinds of predators that attack her, various diseases, as well as people whose traps she accidentally falls into.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Weasel in the forest

Photo: Weasel in the forest

The mating season for weasels usually occurs in March, but it can continue all year round if there is a lot of food and favorable conditions around. These animals do not create strong families. During the mating season, the male fertilizes more than one female, who then alone takes care of her offspring. The gestation period lasts about a month. The mother-to-be prepares a cozy nest for her babies by decorating it with grass bedding with leaves and moss.

From 4 to 10 cubs are born at the weasel, which are completely helpless and extremely small, they weigh only one and a half grams, are completely blind and covered with a light fluff. Then the fluff replaces the hairline with a characteristic summer color. The little ones are growing fast. By three weeks old, their eyes begin to see clearly, milk teeth appear, they make interesting chirping sounds.

If any threat appears on the horizon, then the weasel mother boldly protects her brood. If possible, she drags the kids to another home, because she always has several of them.

Closer to the four-week period, the babies are already eating the prey caught by the mother and torn to pieces. By five weeks of age, the kids themselves begin to cut rodents. And at seven weeks of age, little weasels are already beginning their first hunt. Until the kids have left their mother, they follow her, examining and studying the surrounding area, watching how the mother hunts. Gradually, young weasels begin an independent lifestyle, finding their own territory for living.

Natural enemies of weasels

Photo: Animal weasel

Photo: Animal weasel

The miniature dimensions of the weasel, on the one hand, make it vulnerable to many other larger predators, and on the other hand, they help it escape from them. Weasel is quirky, swift and fearless, so it is not so easy to catch it. This small predator is threatened by wolves, foxes, badgers, golden eagles, eagles, eagle owls, raccoon dogs, pine martens and even common stray dogs.

Having met the enemy, the weasel does not think to give up, she bravely fights for her life and the lives of her cubs. Often, the weasel bites right into the throat of its ill-wisher and can emerge victorious from the fight with a larger predator. There were cases when the weasel died from being crushed by the carcass of a large animal, but she did not die alone, her weighty enemy was also defeated, the baby managed to gnaw his throat.

People do not pose a particular threat to weasel . Commercial hunting for this animal is not conducted, its skin is too small for this. Sometimes weasel itself can fall into traps set by hunters for completely different animals. For humans, this animal brings tangible benefits, exterminating mice in huge quantities. There is evidence that in a year one individual exterminates from two to three thousand small rodents. It’s just a colossal scale!

Population and species status

Photo: White weasel

Photo: White weasel

There is no threat to the weasel population in this period of time. The animal is quite widespread in various countries and continents. As already mentioned, this little predator is of no interest to hunters. If she dies in the traps set, it is completely by accident. Weasel meat is also not eaten.

Still, the small size plays into the paw of this animal. Thanks to him, it is difficult for animals to catch affection, and people do not need it as prey. Zoologists urge people to treat this animal with respect, because no one will get ahead of it in the extermination of pest rodents, which weasel destroys by the thousands.

According to the international classification, this small predator is categorized as the least vulnerable animal species at the moment. The territory of its settlement is quite large. Mass death of rats and mice can represent a certain danger to weasels. Eating those rodents that have already tasted the poison, the weasel itself may die. Still, such a threat does not carry a serious scale. The weasel population is quite stable, there are no jumps in the direction of a sharp decrease or increase, there is no need to worry about its disappearance, as scientists say.

Weasel is an incredible storehouse of energy, dexterity, courage, flexibility , gracefulness, selflessness, glibness, resourcefulness.

This list is endless, this little animal is so amazing and interesting. It is hard to believe that such remarkable strength and gluttony, independence and courage, purposefulness and activity coexist in such a tiny body.

How many legends, accepts and beliefs exist about this amazing animal. Some peoples honor and respect affection, consider it a symbol of happiness and prosperity, while others, on the contrary, are afraid, believing that it brings trouble. In any case, this animal has been of great interest since ancient times. And almost everyone knows about its benefits in the extermination of pest rodents. Weasel is very useful for our nature, its benefits are colossal and invaluable.

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