The weasel (scientific name Mustela nivalis) is a small, slender animal approximately sized 9 to 17 in (23 – 43 cm) in total body length, including the weasel’s tail.

Weasels are at home in all kinds of environments, from the heat of India to the colder climates of Canada and mainland Britain. They’re able to live anywhere as long as they’re able to find food and shelter from the weather. It lives in the mountains or near waterfalls where it hunts frogs, mice, young rabbits, and other small mammals. It is not afraid of people and will often raid chicken coops.

These members of the mammal society are also known as polecats because they resemble ferrets and are collectively part of the Genus Mustela family.

What Does A Weasel Look Like?

Weasel coming out of its shelter

Mustela Nivalis (weasels) have long slender bodies and short limbs with mostly thin legs. Their tails are about the same length as they are long. They can be brown, short haired, or tan colored with dark spots on their backs and a creamy white throat. Weasels hibernate, but unlike stoats, their skin does not turn white in winter because it is already covered in brown fur.

Are Ferrets Weasels?

Weasels and ferrets are both mammals that look similar but are not the same. The two species live in woodland. Weasels are smaller than ferrets and do not have white fur on their noses. Weasels also have shorter legs, their bodies are leaner, but their tails are longer than a ferret’s tail.

What’s The Difference Between A Stoat And A Weasel?

A weasel sticks its head out of a cave

Both stoats (Mustela erminea) and weasels are long-legged mammals that both have strong jaws and long bodies. A weasel is smaller than a stoat, and its tail is about the same length as its body. Stoats growl when they are threatened while weasels hiss. Both animals have a long, bushy tail which they use for balance when running and to clean themselves after meals.

What Do Weasels Eat?

A weasel’s main food is mice and other small rodent prey, but they will also eat insects and even other small animals that they can catch. A weasel will kill anything that it can capture in different habitats at any time of the year because blizzards or extremely cold weather does not prevent it from hunting prey. The weasel also eats dead squirrels and small animals in the winter. In spring, they eat mice and other small animals again. In summer, they eat insects and smaller animals like moths.

More specifically, they prey on small rodents like mice or eating voles and make light work of insects in the woodland like spiders and ants for food. They also eat carrion, plants, and seeds. They will also eat small birds and even birds eggs.

Where Do Weasels Live?

Weasel in its habitat

A weasel’s habitat is near water, in mountains, or woodland and forested areas. They love pine trees, open fields, and being near waterfalls and streams. They are usually found at elevations of 3,000 to 9,000 feet.

Weasels live in most parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. They do not thrive in very cold climates, so they are only found in Canada and Russia during the winter months.

Weasels like to live in burrows, but they have been hunted for food in many parts of Europe, especially England, where people used to catch them with traps in old mills. Europe has nine different species of weasel. The longest is the Eurasian blue-stocking which is about 32 inches long and weighs 9 or 10 pounds.

Do You Get Weasels In UK?

Being the UK’s smallest carnivore, you will typically find 5 species of weasel here (apart from Northern Island and most islands nearby).

The common one is the European sable, which can be found in Britain’s mountains and wetlands. The largest is the Spanish sable which will grow as long as 2 meters (6.56 feet). It has dark brown fur made up of 20 sub-species of squirrels, voles, and mice. This predator loves to eat voles and mice. Weasels cannot survive in areas with very cold weather, so they are not very common in Europe during the winter months (when it is too cold for them to be outside). Conversely, they can be found in Canada, where winter temperatures are similar to those in Europe (about -20°C / -4°F).

Weasel Personality

A weasel hides under some pipes

Weasels are a solitary species except for mother and kittens (called kits) who live together in burrows with entrances under rocks. They have three to six kits with up to two litters each year which resemble the adults in colour. Weasel kits are born blind with developed ears and muzzles and a furless coat of blonde-brown hair. After 2 weeks, they leave their den and begin to hunt by scenting and following a trail of food. They are most active at night and are good swimmers, but they are not very good climbers.

The weasel does not care how many enemies it has as long as it can deal with them one at a time. The weasel is sly and clever, always looking for weaknesses in its opponents before striking. It is also calculating and patient in its attacks.

Weasels have a strong scent and are not popular animals to have as pets because they cannot be trained. They also do not like to be held or touched.

Can A Weasel Kill A Human?

The short answer is yes; they can. There have been documented cases where a weasel has killed a child or adult human. But why would a weasel kill a human? Simply put, when food runs out, the weasel will attack any small animals or birds it can find if it thinks it can catch it. The same holds true for humans. The reason why weasels attack humans is that if threatened or confronted by them (especially children), they will attack to defend themselves and their nest of kits or babies.

Weasel Predators

A fox, mink, or hawk are a weasel’s main predators. They also die from disease, electrocution, being run over by cars, and in some cases by humans. In areas where there are many dogs, weasels become a large part of the dog’s diet.

Sources and References

  1. Stoat and weasel guide: how to identify, habitat, diet and best places to spot –
  2. Weasel –

4 thoughts on “The Intriguing Life of the Weasel (Mustela Nivalis)”

  1. In Ham Wall reserve last week I was sitting by a track, watching water fowl and raptors. Suddenly two small weasels appeared, running along the track. The weird thing was that the second one was holding the first one’s tail end in its mouth. Both were squeaking. Was this parent and juvenile?

    1. It’s possible that what you witnessed was indeed a parent and juvenile weasel interaction, but it’s also possible that it was a form of play, courtship, or even a territorial dispute between two weasels.

    1. Hi Tim,
      Weasels are known for being fearless, agile, and aggressive predators despite their small size. They can be quite fierce when cornered and are capable of delivering quick bites. However, a typical house cat is considerably larger and stronger than a weasel, and if the cat is an experienced hunter, it could potentially injure or kill the weasel. While a weasel might put up a fight if attacked by a house cat, due to the size and strength disparity, it’s a situation that’s best avoided.
      Kind Regards

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