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Weasel

The weasel is Britain’s smallest carnivore and is distributed though England, Scotland and Wales but it currently absent from Ireland, the Isle of Wight and many other smaller UK islands. It is also found in parts of Europe, Asia and North America.

Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) at the British ...

Image via Wikipedia

Spring is the mating season and the only time that males and females will associate with each other. After mating and making a nest of leaves and grass in a crevice or hole a gestation period of 5 weeks follows with a litter of 3 – 8 kitten’s being born, they may even go on to have a second litter later in the summer. Unlike other British carnivores weasels can breed in the summer following their birth (most carnivores only start breeding in their second year).

The weasels diet consists of mainly voles and mice and they will hunt these using scent and exploration of every rock and crevice they come across in a territory of about 4 – 8 hectares.

Identification

  • Smaller than a stoat though similar in appearance
  • Brown/ ginger fur and white/ cream underside with an uneven boarder between colours
  • No black tip on the tail, unlike a stoat
  • Droppings are narrow with twisty ends

Latin name: Mustela rivalis

In the Garden

Weasels like woodland, hedgerows, farmland, mountains and moorland and need to have a diet of voles and mice to survive. They will usually co-exist side by side with stoats, however weasels can be predated by cats, owls, foxes and birds of prey, a although a weasel will fight hard to defend itself. Weasels may eat hundreds of mice a year so should be considered a friend although unfortunately some people regard them as vermin due to the fact they also take birds eggs, but thankfully they are still a relatively common species. They like cover so provide hedgerows, rocky outlets and bushes; this will also provide a habitat for their prey.

Did you know?

  • Weasels are part of the mustilid family which also includes pole cats, mink and pine martins
  • Weasles can change their coat colour as a defence mechanism
  • Groups of weasels are known as boogles, gangs, packs or confusions!