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Monday Mustelid - Mustela frenata Edition

Must be Monday, because here are some mustelids!

The Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata) can be found primarily in North America, but its range extends from southern Canada through Central America and the very northern parts of South America. It is one of the larger types of weasels, and resembles the stoat (it’s often referred to as the big stoat). The range of the species is so wide and varied that there are currently 42 recognized subspecies!


Long-tailed Weasels have the elongated body that is typical of weasel species, and they can grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) long, with tails that range from 40 to 70% of the body length, which is proportionally much longer than other weasels. Females are slightly smaller than males. Most Long-tailed Weasels have brown coats in the summer, with pale bellies. In the colder parts of their range, the coats lighten, sometimes turning completely white. The tips of their tails usually remain black. Long-tailed Weasels also grow fur over the soles of their feet during the winter to provide insulation.

The diet of the Long-tailed Weasel consists mainly of small mammals like mice, rats, rabbits, chipmunks, moles and shrews, which it hunts when they are available (which is almost always). Long-tailed Weasels supplement their diet with frogs, birds, eggs, insects, young bats, worms and fish, and will sometimes take surplus kills and cache them. It does not usually scavenge carrion it did not kill and store itself.


Long-tailed Weasels often adopt dens and burrows that had been dug by other animals, like chipmunks. They will line the burrows with fur and straw. Both male and female Long-tailed Weasels are very territorial, and usually only tolerate each other during the breeding season in July and August. Females delay the implantation of fertilized eggs for about 9 months, with active gestation taking approximately four weeks. In the spring, she will give birth to a litter of 5 to 8 kits, which will stay with her until the autumn.


Long-tailed Weasels are currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, due to their wide range and overall healthy populations. Indeed, they have the widest distribution of any other mustelid in North America, and they generally adapt fairly well as parts of their range are developed by humans. Long-tailed Weasels are most active by night, and can sometimes be spotted when their eyes reflect light. Their eyeshine is green in color.


Source for all images used in this post.

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