THE WEASEL

(belongs to the family Mustelidae)

ermine


Where it lives
The weasel can be found almost anywhere in Canada (the coast, the mountains, the prairies and the far north). The weasel will move into a den of an animal that it has killed.

Babies
In April, two to ten babies are born in a burrow. The nest is lined with fur from animals that the weasel has killed.

The mother watches them closely and takes good care of them. In about five weeks their eyes are open. Young weasels begin to hunt when they are about two months old.


Appearance
The weasel has a tiny face, sharp teeth and claws, and a tail with black fur at the tip. In winter it is white and in summer it is brown.

DIAGRAM of a short-tailed weasel




short-tailed weasel
The short-tailed weasel is a tiny animal, only 15 to 23 cm long.


Food
It hunts for rabbits, rats, birds, frogs, ground squirrels and pika ( a small rodent that lives in the mountains) . It eats hundreds of meadow mice. Weasels that live in the north also feed on Arctic hare and lemming.

The weasel can find the open entrance to an animal's tunnel and hunt the animal underground.

The weasel ususally hunts at night. It kills its prey by biting it at the back of the neck.

Chicken farmers do not like the weasel. It can kill several chickens at a time. But weasels are useful animals because they eat many rats and mice.



long-tailed weasel
long-tailed weasel


Adaptation
The weasel may be small but it is a good fighter and moves in a flash. It is a silent hunter and can approach without a sound, then rush upon its prey.

The weasel's coat changes colour. The brownish summer coat turns white for the winter. Just the tip of the tail stays black.

Some people say that a weasel smells worse than the skunk ( because of its musk glands ).

The slender (thin) body allows it to enter underground burrows.

Enemies
Snakes, hawks and owls kill the weasel. Weasels are trapped for their lovely fur.

short-tailed weasel
photo - Steve Hilldebrand, USFW, public domain


Interesting facts
The weasel does not have many friends. Animals much bigger than it do not dare come near. Some say the weasel will kill without reason even though it is not hungry. It is not afraid to fight a bear or a porcupine.

Weasels are as curious as raccoons. They look under every bush and sneak into holes.

Ferrets and minks are cousins of the weasel.


CANADIAN ANIMALS


photo - short-tailed weasel, summer coat from NPS
other photos from Usenet

J.Giannetta
1999 (updated 2011)
jgiannet@hotmail.com

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