It’s been a busy time for me lately, which forced me to slack off on my animal posts. But I’m back today with our next mustelid!
The Siberian Weasel (Mustela sibirica) can be found throughout much of eastern Asia, and has a fairly wide distribution from Taiwan, Thailand and North Korea to the western edge of the Gobi desert and Russia. It has also been introduced to several of the islands of Japan. It is an adaptable animal, able to thrive in a variety of habitats, such as forests and grasslands. Other names for the Siberian Weasel include kolinsky and kolonok, which is a brand of “sable” fur paintbrushes. While Sables are also hunted and farmed for their fur, it is usually the Siberian Weasel whose fur is used to make these paintbrushes.
Siberian Weasels are medium-sized, representing a transitional form between the smallest predators, like Least Weasels and Stoats, and larger predators like Polecats and Minks. Adult male Siberian Weasels can grow up to 15 inches (39 cm) in body length, with tails up to 8 inches (21 cm) long. Females are significantly shorter than males, and neither gender weighs more than 1.9 pounds (0.89 kg). They have soft, reddish coats that can vary in shade with pale undersides and dark mask markings around the nose and eyes.
The favorite foods of Siberian Weasels are small rodents, like mice, rats and voles. Other prey animals depend on the specific range of a given Siberian Weasel, but can include water voles and pikas. Sometimes they branch out to hunt fish, amphibians and birds, and they will also consume nuts and berries when they are available. Siberian Weasels are usually active only at night or during dusk and dawn.
During the first half of the year (with specific times depending on range) the mating season for Siberian Weasels begins. After a gestation period of up to 41 days, females will give birth to litters of four to ten (!) kits. The kits are born blind and helpless, and are completely dependent on their mother until they reach about two months old. The kits will stay with their mother until early autumn, after which they will leave to establish their own territories.
Due to its wide distribution and healthy populations, Siberian Weasels are considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN. There are currently eleven recognized subspecies:
- Mustela sibirica sibirica (Siberia)
- Mustela sibirica canigula (Tibet)
- Mustela sibirica charbinensis (Manchuria)
- Mustela sibirica coreanus (Korea)
- Mustela sibirica davidiana (southern China)
- Mustela sibirica fontanierii (northern China)
- Mustela sibirica hodgsoni (Kashmir)
- Mustela sibirica manchurica (northeastern China)
- Mustela sibirica moupinensis (Burma)
- Mustela sibirica quelpartis (Quelpart Island)
- Mustela sibirica subhemachalana (Himalayas)
Source for all images used in this post.