7 to 13 inches. Weight: 1 to
Inhabits brushy or wooded areas, usually not far
from water. Tends to avoid dense forest.
Prefers areas with high densities of small mammals.
Most abundant in ecotones.
Although short-tail weasels prey on a variety of
small mammals and birds, they specialize in hunting
Mostly nocturnal but will hunt during the day.
Active throughout the year. Dens in ground
burrows, under stumps, rock piles, or old buildings.
Breeds during summer; 8.5 to 10 month gestation;
delayed implantation; young born April or May; one
litter per year of 4 to 13 young.
Long-tail weasel - larger, longer tail. Least
weasel - smaller, short tail, no black tip on tail.
Mink - larger, uniform color.
The short tailed weasel (Ermine) is noticeably smaller,
with a shorter tail, and varies from 8 to 14 inches long
with a 4 1/2 inch tail. They weigh from 1 1/4 to 5
ounces and are 2 to 3 inches high.
It has a long, slender, muscular
body with short legs. The head is small, with beady
eyes, small ears and a pointed nose. They move with
quick movements and a graceful, bounding gait. Weasels
change color with the seasons, and there is no color
difference between the sexes. All the senses are well
developed in the weasel.
In summer, the short-tailed
weasel is dark brown on the back and legs. The chin,
throat and undersides of the legs are white or a light
yellow. In winter, it is entirely white, sometimes with
yellowish stains on the lower abdomen. The tail has a
black tip year round.
The short-tailed weasel females mature at 3 to 4 months
and males mature at about one year. The breeding season
is in July. There is a period of delayed implantation
with a gestation period of 9 to 10 months. The period of
active pregnancy is 17 to 23 days.
Litter sizes varies from four to
thirteen, with an average of six to eight. The young are
born in April or May in nests constructed in underground
dens or hay piles. Mouse nests and burrows are often
used and heavily lined with fine grass and mouse fur.
The male begins to bring food to the den about 1 month
after the young are born. The young are weaned at the
end of 5 weeks and are able to hunt for themselves by 7
or 8 weeks of age. The family stays together until late
summer and then disperses. The life expectancy of
weasels is short, probably less than a year, although
they are capable of living as long as 6 years.
prey on small rodents such as mice, rats, voles, hares,
rabbits, and chipmunks. They also take shrews, birds,
birds eggs, frogs, bats, insects, earthworms and may
occasionally kill domestic chickens.
The weasel hunts by tirelessly
and persistently investigating every small hole,
crevice, bush or rock pile it encounters. They will
track prey by following their scent trails and generally
attack prey by ambushing and pouncing on it. They are
very quick and kill by piercing the base of the skull
with their teeth. The weasel frequently kills more than
it can eat and often caches leftover food. The weasel
can consume up to one third of its own weight in a 24
Weasels are curious, alert and bold. They are persistent
hunters who seldom remain long in their dens and may be
abroad hunting at any hour, although they are usually
most active at night. Weasels are active year round.
Weasels occasionally hunt in pairs but, for the most
part, are solitary except during breeding and rearing
season. They are good swimmers and can also climb trees.
All species emit a strong musk odor when alarmed, and
the weasel may stamp its feet when annoyed. Weasels may
mark their trails with droppings. Home ranges very from
30 to 400 acres.
Weasel populations often cycle with mouse populations.
Several parasites can infect weasels, such as guinea
worm and kidney worms. These probably have little impact
on the population.
Weasels are subject to predation
from hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, dogs, cats and man.
In agricultural areas, weasels
are more common due to the practice of storing grain
which provides ideal conditions for mice.
Weasels prefer woodlands or open country with hedgerows,
thickets or fence rows. They are usually found near
water but are not semi-aquatic as is the mink. They
frequent stone piles, brush heaps, wood piles, hay
stacks, log piles and old abandoned buildings.
The short-tailed weasel inhabits
brushy or wooded areas, usually not far from water. It
tends to avoid dense forests.
The dens of weasels are shallow
chambers about 6 inches underground with two to three
entrances and are lined with mouse fur and grass.
The fur of the short-tailed weasel was once reserved for
use by royalty. The fur of the short-tailed weasel is
fine and of good quality and is used in garments, lining
Weasels play an important role
in helping to control rodent populations.
Best Management Practices