will never see a weasel because they are more active at night, and
they try to stay out of sight.
The word weasel sometimes refers to a
whole family of meat-eating animals. Scientists call this family of animals
mustelids. The smallest mustelids are called weasels. The most
common weasels are the least weasel, the long-tailed weasel, and the
short-tailed weasel. Some other mustelids are the mink, otter, badger, and skunk.
use many different forms of communication. One of the major
ways they communicate with one another is through an elaborate language
that is made up of
a variety of vocalizations. They may screech and squeal, utter a rapid
trill, and purr when content. During the mating season, females give
a twittering call. Vocalizations are also made when the
animals feel threatened.
Weasels use musk to mark the borders
of their hunting area or territory. This is a chemical form of communication.
Musk is a thick,
oily yellowish fluid with a very potent odor. It is stored in
special scent glands stored at the base of the weasel's tail. The scent is a
secret message for other weasels. A weasel may drag its rump on the ground,
probably to leave
a scent, that informs other weasels of who lives there, how long ago
they last visited that spot, and whether they are male or female.
Females also use musk to attract their mate. Should another weasel of the same sex
wander inside the boundaries, the musk warns the intruder that it is
trespassing and is not welcome.
Body language and sounds are
also used to
communicate when weasels meet each other. Weasels have well-developed senses of sight, hearing, and
smell. These senses allow them to be capable predators.
Long-tailed weasels communicate among themselves with visual,
sound, and scent cues. Females emit an attractive scent when they
are ready to mate.
communication occurs between rival males, between mates, and between
a mother and her offspring.
are long and skinny, and their bodies are very flexible. Some people
think they look like a furry snake when they move.
smallest weasels are only around 6-8 inches long, and the biggest
weasels are 12-18 inches long (including their tail).
depend a lot on camouflage. In summer, they have a brown coat, and in winter
they have a white coat. Weasels always have a double fur coat.
Weasels that live in cold weather turn
white during the winter. A
weasel with white fur is called an ermine.
are very active. They are always moving and hunting. Because they are so
active, their heartbeat and breathing rates are very fast. A weaselís heart beats 300-400 times per
minute, which makes their body
temperatures very warm. Some smaller weasels have a body temperature
of around 104 degrees Fahrenheit!
are nearĖsighted. This means that they can see things that are
close to them much better than they can see things that are far away.
Weasels mainly use their sense of smell to get on the trail of their
prey, but they also use their eyesight.
weasel is the most widespread carnivore in the western hemisphere.
weasel can live in a lot of different habitats like forests,
farmlands, meadows, and prairies. They are even well-adapted for
living in the
tundra. Weasels donít usually live in deep
forests, sandy deserts, or open spaces. Most people will never see a weasel
because they are mostly active at night, and they try to stay out of sight.
make their dens in abandoned burrows of other mammals, often
chipmunks, and also ground squirrels, moles, or pocket gophers. Weasels
line the inside of their den with feathers, grass, leaves, fur from their prey, and
sometimes their own fur.
Weasels are carnivores, which means that
they mostly eat meat. Weasels are not scavengers; they donít usually eat meat that they
find. Instead, weasels prefer to eat animals that they
kill themselves. Weasels also drink the blood of animals that they kill.|
Weasels are very strong for
their size. They can kill animals much bigger than they are such
and chickens. Weasels
usually kill by biting their prey in the neck.
most of their time hunting. Weasels scurry around trying to smell mice or
voles to eat. They also eat rabbits, chipmunks, shrews, rats, birds,
and the occasional insect or earthworm. Once they smell them, the weasel does not give up and follows
the trail. Often they follow the trail right into the animalís burrow or den.
Weasels eat half their body weight every day. Most
weasels are nocturnal (active at night), but sometimes they hunt during the day.
Weasels have to eat a
lot because they are very active. Sometimes they kill more than they can
eat, so they will bury or store the extra food. They mark their food with their musk,
making the food smell bad so that other animals wonít
The lifespan of
wild weasels is not
well known, as many die before reaching one year old. If a wild
weasel reaches adulthood, it may live for
several more years.
Weasel mothers usually have 4 to 8 babies.
Baby weasels are very small and weigh 1/10th of an ounce or
less. Weasels are unusual because the babies spend 8-10 months in
the mother before they are born, and they only grow during the last month.
weasels start to eat meat when they are about one month old, and they leave
their mother after 2 to 3 months. Weasels
are fully grown after 3 to 4 months.
Other Interesting Facts|
were once hunted for
their fur to make coats.
Weasels run by a series of bounds, with
their backs humped at each bound and their tails trailing backward.
Long-tailed weasels are quick, agile, and
good climbers and swimmers.
Weasels are timid and will normally run
Weasels often stand on their hind legs to
look for signs of food or danger. The
weaselís whiskers brush against its surrounding to help the weasel
navigate in the dark.
have close relatives that like to live and hunt in trees. These
relatives are the marten and the fisher. They look a lot like weasels but are bigger.
Some people claim that weasel musk is stronger than skunk scent.
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Pantheon Books, 1970.
Ivy, Bill. Natureís Children, Weasels.
Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1995.
Kurta, Allen. Mammals of the Great Lake Region.
The University of Michigan Press, 1995
Hinshaw. Weasels, Otters, Skunks and Their Family. New York:
Holiday House, 1973.
Animal Diversity Web. 04, December 2005 <http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_erminea.html>.
frenata." Animal Diversity Web. 04 December 2005 <http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_frenata.html>.
nivalis." Animal Diversity Web. 04, December 2005 <http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_nivalis.html>.
eNature. National Wildlife Federation. 04 December 2005 <http://www.enature.com/flashcard/show_flash_card.asp?recordNumber=MA0036>.
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February, 2006. Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial
Permission to use photographs
of weasel is granted under the terms of the GNU
Free Documentation License from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.