Long-Tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata)


Long-Tailed Weasel
Mustela frenata

Long-tailed Weasels are voracious predators, foraging day and night for small vertebrates, and scavenging for carrion when necessary. They are solitary except for the July-August breeding season. Both males and females maintain territories, marking them with chemical secretions from anal glands. Foxes, raptors, Coyotes, domestic dogs and cats, and rattlesnakes all prey on Long-tailed Weasels, and although they can live in a variety of habitats, population densities are low. In some locations they are endangered, and in others, considered threatened or species of concern.

Litters usually comprise 4-5 pups, born in a den. In 12 weeks they reach full adult body weight and begin hunting for food, pursuing mates, and establishing territories.

Fur is light brown above and buff to rusty orange below in summer; all white in winter, except for tail, which is black-tipped all year. Males tend to be as much as 40 percent larger than females.

According to the IUCN this species is considered LEAST CONCERN (lowest threat level).
According to the IUCN this species is considered LEAST CONCERN (lowest threat level).

13-18 inches (0.3-0.5 m)

5-12 ounces

Unknown, but long-tailed weasels in captivity can up up to 9 years.

Least concern

Found in forests, open grassy meadows and marshes, and near water. Found in a wide variety of habitats, usually near water. Favoured habitats include brushland and open woodlands, field edges, riparian grasslands, swamps, and marshes. Dens are in abandoned burrows made by other mammal, rock crevices, brushpiles, stump hollows, or spaces amongst tree roots; one individual may use multiple dens. Tolerant of close proximity to humans.

Voles, pocket gophers, mice, ground and tree squirrels, rabbits; to a lesser degree birds, eggs, snakes, frogs, and insects. In captivity, adults can consume an amount equal to one-third their own body weight in 24 hours. In the wild they may store food in a burrow or near a kill site.

Small and able to rest and feed in tight, hidden spots, long-tailed weasels do not leave many signs of their presence. Individuals will kill and store their food for later use, consequently the species has earned a reputation of being a voracious killer. While that is not exactly true – individuals are simply opportunistic predators who take every chance to secure their next meal – long-tailed weasels will also leave behind carcasses, sometimes after eating portions of the neck and head. Discovering partially eaten smaller mammals (voles, gophers, mice, squirrels, rabbits) may be a sign that long-tailed weasels are present.


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