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13 Types of Weasels (Interesting Facts)

Categorized under the genus Mustela, weasels, least weasels, ferrets, polecats, and the European mink share several characteristics: slender, long bodies covered in short fur, short legs, and voracious appetites fueled by their high-energy lifestyles. All types of weasels are carnivores but will also eat bird, snake, and chicken eggs without hesitation. The habitat range of weasels extends across Europe, Asia, North, and South America, and parts of North Africa.

13 Types of Weasels

1. Least Weasel

Least weasel
Least weasel | image by Joachim Dobler via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

The smallest of all the weasels, the least weasel is between five and six inches long, just slightly larger than the ordinary mouse, with a one-inch tail and a classic, elongated weasel body. Inhabiting marshes, meadows, and crop fields, least weasels have sharp, tiny teeth and sharp claws.

Although their favorite food is one of the most significant pests on the planet–mice–least weasels can also be pests due to their nocturnal behavior and ability to sneak into livestock barns or chicken coops and prey on newly born animals.

2. Malayan Weasel

Native to Borneo, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula, the Malayan weasel is the “mysterious” weasel that little is known. Researchers aren’t sure if Malayan weasels are nocturnal like other weasels.

However, they have determined that this weasel is mostly carnivorous and solitary in nature. Sightings of the Malayan weasel have been reported in suburban areas, plantations, and forests severely degraded by climate and farming.

3. Japanese Weasel

Japanese weasel on tree
Japanese weasel on tree | image by Alpsdake via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Similar in appearance to the Siberian weasel, the Japanese weasel carries a trait that other weasels do not carry: its coat stays the same color throughout all seasons. Zoologists think this is due to the Japanese weasel living in a warmer climate where it rarely snows.

Japanese weasels are native to the Shikoku, Kyushu, and Honshu Islands of Japan. Years ago, Japanese weasels were deliberately introduced to the Ryukyu and Hokkaido islands to help reduce the rodent population.

4. American Ermine

American stoat
American stoat | image by American Stoat via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0

Found in most areas of North America except for the Great Plains and southeastern states, including Florida, the American ermine inhabits woodlands, prairies, and farms where mice, shrews, and voles are plentiful. The American ermine is also referred to as the short-tailed weasel or the American stoat.

Female stoats are called jills. Male stoats are colloquially called hobs, jacks, or dogs.

5. Mountain Weasel

Mountain weasel standing on rock
A mountain weasel standing on rock | image by Karunakar Rayker via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Mountain weasel watchers can spot this high-altitude weasel hiding in tree trunks, crevices, and the discarded burrows of other animals. Distribution of the mountain weasel ranges from Tibet and Kazakhstan to Mongolia, the Himalayas, and northern China.

Due to habitat loss, the mountain weasel is considered an endangered species. Their carnivorous diet consists of rodents, lizards, muskrats, fish, and rabbits.

6. Missing-toothed Pygmy (Sichuan) Weasel

Not much is known about the elusive missing-toothed pygmy weasel except that it lives high in the mountains of the Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces in China and physically resembles the least weasels in size and color. Missing-toothed pygmies are so named because they are missing a second lower molar.

Least weasels and other weasels have a second lower molar that missing-toothed pygmy weasels don’t have. Zoologists note that missing this molar does not seem to hinder the ability of these weasels to catch and eat small mammals that represent a large part of all weasels’ diets.

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7. Indonesian Mountain Weasel

Another endangered weasel is the Indonesian mountain weasel. Living on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, this tropical jungle and mountain-living weasel is currently suffering severe reductions in populations due to habitat destruction and hunting by fur traders.

8. Black-footed Weasel

Black-footed ferret
Black-footed ferret

Native to North and South America, the black-footed weasel has been on the endangered species list since 1973. Reasons for a steady decline in the black-footed weasel population include drought, inbreeding (loss of genetic diversity), and diseases.

In 2001, the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center began operating in Colorado. Belonging to the genus Mustela, the black-footed weasel is also referred to as a ferret because it is a wild ferret. Domesticated ferrets are not weasels.

9. Yellow-Bellied Weasel

Yellow-bellied weasel
Yellow-bellied weasel | image by Rejaul karim.rk via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Preying on voles, rats, mice, and small birds in the pine forests of Thailand, China, Pakistan, and India, the yellow-bellied weasel is appropriately named for its distinct yellow bellow and a dark brown body. Yellow-bellied weasels descend mountainous areas during winter to avoid blizzards and frigid temperatures.

10. Siberian Weasel

Siberian weasel resting on log
A siberian weasel resting on log

Siberian weasels occupy large swathes of South Asia, including the Himalayas, northern Thailand and China, and North Korea. Areas of Russia inhabited by the Siberian weasel are the Western Urals, Siberia, and eastern Russia.

Adult Siberian weasels depend on a primary nest in which to survive harsh weather, such as fallen logs or stump interiors, but construct several shelters that they use when hunting far from their permanent home. According to Chinese folklore, this type of weasel is not only an insatiable creature but also a trickster who can fool animals and humans into being their next dinner.

11. Back-Striped Weasel

Found throughout most areas of Southeast Asia, the back-striped weasel is noted for the silver streak of fur extending from the neck to the tail root. Back-striped weasels also have a narrow streak of yellow fur reaching from their chest to their stomach.

Although smaller than other weasels, the back-striped weasel is not as small as the least weasel. Its long, bushy tail is nearly half the length of its body.

12. Steppe Polecat

Steppe polecat on dryland
Steppe polecat on dryland | image by Andrey Giljov via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

Found in broad areas of Central Asia, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe, the steppe polecat is easily recognized by the dark mask covering its face and yellowish or light tan fur. Adult steppe polecats are between 14 and 17 inches long, achieving their maximum length at two years of age. Nomadic weasels that leave an area once they have exhausted their resources, steppe polecats prey on hamsters, ground squirrels, and marmots.

13. Amazon Weasel

The Amazon Basin and eastern Ecuador and Peru are the only places on Earth where you will find the Amazon weasel. This rarely seen tropical weasel is believed to live mostly around Amazonian tributaries where it preys on small mammals, fish, and possibly crustaceans. Some sightings of Amazon weasels indicate this weasel may swim far from the banks of the Amazon River and larger streams.

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