Weasels are petite and agile mammals that resemble polecats, minks, and ermines. They come from the Mustelids family and Mustela species. There are about ten species of weasels in different parts of the world apart from Australia and Antarctica.
Weasels have long necks that support a small head with tiny eyes and ears. While they differ in length, all of them have slim, long bodies with short legs with small claw-like toes on every foot. The normal length is between 17 and 22 cm, with females measuring slightly lesser than males.
Most of them weigh not more than 200 grams and have tails that measure around 3 to 5 cm. Sometimes, the bigger species grow up to 30 cm; weigh about 350 g, with tails growing to around ten and 20 cm.
They are all well-furred with black, yellowish, white, brown, or grey markings. Their normal lifespan is between two to three years in the wilderness and a maximum of ten years when kept as a pet.
Since they live in different habitats, they prefer areas with excellent covers and an abundance of prey. Some of them include grasslands, woodlands, marshes, moors, sand dunes, and others.
Join us as we delve into ten amusing and interesting facts about weasels.
There is a reason why some animals reek more than others. In most cases, this acts as a defense mechanism against predators. Weasels, just like other Mustelids, secrete a foul smelling fluid to mark their territories.
Additionally, they also drench their surplus food with the same bodily fluid before burying it. That way, the stench keeps off animals while making it easier for them to locate their food.
Weasels are Carnivorous
Naturally, weasels are meat eaters and fancy squirrels, insects, birds, frogs, dead meat, and mice. Usually, they are aggressive predators that prefer hunting alone. It is much easier for them to chase rodents down in their crevices, caves, herbage, trees based on their trim bodies.
Furthermore, weasels are notorious chicken coops raiders. Since their bodies do not store fat, they have to eat more frequently compared to other animals.
In most cases, weasels kill more than they can consume in one instant. A normal routine for a weasel involves hunting, eating, and storing surplus food to feed later. Occasionally, in summer or when their favorite meals get in low supply, they enjoy indulging in selected berries.
Weasels Can Change Fur Color
Interestingly, some species change their fur to a white color during winter. In such cases, the hair becomes denser and longer for about three to five weeks. The color transition starts from the tummy area then spreads to other parts of the body. Immediately after winter, the process gets reversed, but the tail’s tip remains black in all instances.
There is a genetic connection to the color change. For instance, the least or long-tailed weasels still change color even when transferred in a hot climate. Likewise, weasels that fail to change color retain their original tint even in snowy weather.
That explains that the temperature or the location never triggers the color alteration. Instead, it is more of a physiological reaction to daylight and nightfall periods.
Weasels Can Have Lots of Babies
The gestation period for weasels varies from various factors. Sometimes, due to a fertilized egg’s late implantation, the duration may extend up to ten months. In a normal situation, gestation lasts around 30 to 35 days. Since a male weasel copulates with numerous females, it is common to find several young weasels almost all the year.
In a favorable environment, females produce a single litter or two each year. The litters also referred to as kits, consist of up to 15 baby weasels. The babies, called as kits grow very fast and get weaned when they reach two months. By that time, they can hunt on their own and capable of starting their territories.
Weasels are Sociable Animals
Weasels are known for their ruthless and territorial characteristics when hunting and protecting their homes. A ferret is one of the species that adapt well to domestication. Unlike other types of weasels, ferrets are friendly and make amusing pets. Moreover, they have the same mischievous and high-energy similar to the wild counterparts.
Weasels are also useful creatures to keep around the home because of their ability to kill several rodents one day. Compared to a cat, weasels are more efficient in eradicating rats and mice.
Weasels are Good Hunters
With a high appetite to satisfy, weasels spend most of their days hunting. On a normal day, weasels feed at least five times. The males have a slightly higher appetite than the females, which makes them consume more than a third of their body weight.
Their perfect eye vision, especially at night, simplifies the pursuing process. Weasels have devious and malicious hunting techniques that replicate how the big cats attack their victims. When a weasel gets hold of the prey, it bites at the back of the skull before feasting on them.
Weasels May Be Illegal to Own
For several decades, weasels have been forbidden in a couple of states. The main argument is that weasels are not the most genial animal to keep at home. Despite some states allowing domestication of ferret species, it is still illegal to own one in California.
While there is an immense benefit of keeping rodents away when you keep a weasel, they can be a great threat if they access your fowl houses. Sometimes weasels attack and kills other pets in the vicinity like cats and rabbits.
Also, the awful stench that they produce may be detrimental to your home environment.
Weasels Like to Play
When handled well, weasels are not always aggressive. If properly trained or domesticated earlier in life, they can become friendly animals. Based on their inquisitive nature, it is easy for them to learn new games and tricks. However, it is important to supervise them playing with children.
Since they are overly energetic, you also need to monitor them when out of their cages to avoid catastrophic damages. In most cases, they socialize better with dogs and cats. Even so, keep them away from rabbits, chickens, rats, guinea pigs, mice, and birds at all times.
Weasels Sleep a Lot
Weasels make it to the list of the heaviest sleepers in the animal kingdom. Amusingly, they feign death by falling into a very deep slumber. When that happens, they become unresponsive even after shaking or moving. Strangely, weasels get out of the situation on their and behave as nothing happened.
Weasels Can Become Aggressive
Weasels have the cutest of faces but do not get fooled by that because they can become excessively aggressive. With their incredibly fast metabolism, they have to spend their time looking for food to satisfy it. For that reason, they become very aggressive and formidable hunters.
When a weasel corners its prey, it usually immobilizes it by wrapping its strong body around it. Then, with a single bite at the back part of the head, they puncture the spinal cord or the skull till the victim breathes its last.
Bear in mind that weasels have an instinctual blood-lust that gets triggered by any form of motion. So, even when full, they may attack or kill anything that appears like food. It is well known that weasels are tough enough to kill animals that are even ten times their body sizes.
In the wild, weasels, with their sneaky character, aggressiveness, and excellent night vision, make outstanding hunters. Weasels have a historical dispute with poultry farmers. With their slender and lithe bodies, they can slip through unguarded openings to chicken houses.
Despite the bad reputation attached to weasels, they are very harmless to humans and can make perfect pets if trained well. Yet, they may still try to defend themselves while around other pets.
If you want to keep one as a pet, practice caution, especially when playing around children, and block them completely off your chicken coop.