Least Weasel

Least Weasel Tracks (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

Least Weasel Tracks (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

Tracks
Least Weasel tracks look very similar to vole tracks.  The gait appears more like a walk or a trot rather than a weasel lope or bound.  We noted that the trail stayed on the surface of the snow rather than diving into tunnels like a meadow vole.  We found a rope-like weasel scat along this trail.  I had no idea how small these weasels are.  Fascinating!

Weasel Scat (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

Weasel Scat (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

A large male’s tracks may resemble a small female Short-Tailed Weasel’s track.
Track Length: 0.5 – 0.8 inches (1.3 – 2.0 cm)
Track Width: 0.4 – 0.5 inches (1.0 – 1.3 cm)
Straddle: 0.8 –1.5 inches (2.0 – 3.8 cm)
Stride: 5 – 20 inches (13 – 51 cm)
Length with tail: 15 – 23 cm. In comparison, a meadow vole measures 12.7 cm – 19.5 cm.
Head and Body: 12 –17cm. In comparison, a meadow vole measures 9.5 – 14 cm.
Tail length: 2 – 4cm. In comparison, a meadow vole tail measures 3.2 – 5.7 cm.
Weight: 31–57g (only twice the weight of a deer mouse). In comparison, a meadow vole weighs 22 – 66 g, roughly the same as a Least Weasel.

Least Weasel Hole (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

Least Weasel Hole (Bruce Trail, Orangeville, December 2014)

Least Weasel
Mustela nivalis

Who knew?
Mustela means “one who carries off mice”
Nivalis means “of the snow”. The Least Weasel is the smallest carnivore in North America. Female Least Weasels are smaller than males and females tend to hunt more often in tunnels. A group of Least Weasels is called a “Boogle”.

Diet
The Least weasel is a small mammal specialist. They eat voles and mice, birds, eggs, insects, shrews and moles. In the Northern part of their range, they prefer to eat lemmings.

Identification
Least weasels have white feet.
Least weasels have a few black hairs at the end of their tail but they never have an entirely black-tipped tail like the Short and Long-Tailed weasels do.

Breeding Information
Least weasels have 2 to 3 litters of 1-6 young about 5 weeks after mating. They have one litter in the spring and one litter in the fall. They do not exhibit delayed implantation like the Short and Long-Tailed weasels. Their breeding system more closely resembles that of voles rather than other weasels – they can breed year- round.

Question
Are Least weasels descendants of voles that turned cannibalistic, or are voles descendents of Least weasels that turned vegetarian?  Hmmm…

Please visit my “All about Weasels” page for more information: https://natureguelphtracking.wordpress.com/mammals/weasels-otters-and-relatives/all-about-weasels/

References:
Alexis Burnett, Earth Tracks Apprenticeship Program
Rezendes, P. 1999, Tracking and the Art of Seeing, HarperCollins Publishers, New York.
Elbroch, M. & Rinehart K. 2011, Behavior of North American Mammals, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, NY.
Reid, F. A., 2006, Mammals of North America, Houghton Mifflin Company, NY.
Eder, T., 2002, Mammals of Ontario, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, AB.
Sheldon, I. Animal Tracks of Ontario, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, AB.

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