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The Weasel The weasel is a small-sized, meat-eating mammal that lives in various habitats, including grasslands, sand dunes, forests, farmlands, and even small cities. The weasel is the most widespread carnivore in the Western Hemisphere, and is also found in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

A

weasel has a small, flat, triangular head with short, rounded ears, and long whiskers. It has brown fur on the upper part of its body and white to yellowish fur on its undersides. In cold regions, its fur turns white in the winter. A weasel can weigh between three to seven ounces, and, depending on the species, can be as short as five inches or as long as 24 inches (including its tail). Weasels communicate with each other through various methods. One way is by their odor. Weasels produce musk, which is a thick, oily, yellowish fluid with a very distinct scent. The weasel uses its musk to mark the borders of its territory. Should another weasel enter its territory, the odor sends a message to the intruder that it is trespassing and should keep out — or else! Weasels also use body language and vocal sounds to communicate with each other. There are numerous species of the weasel. The three most common weasels are the long-tailed weasel, the shorttailed weasel, and the least weasel which is also referred to as the common weasel. The least weasel is the smallest of all weasels, but it is the most wide-spread. Unlike the other weasels, the least weasel does not have a black tip on the end of its tail. The long-tailed weasel is the largest of the three species, due to its tail which comprises over 40 percent of its body length. 68

COMMUNITY MAGAZINE

Long-tailed weasels in the southwestern of U.S. have a white mask. The short-tailed weasel, which is also called an ermine, is smaller than the long-tailed weasel, but larger than the least weasel. Like other weasels, short-tailed weasels have a brown coat in the summer and a white coat in the winter (in cold regions). They measure between seven and 13 inches in length.

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Weasels prefer to eat only the animals that they kill on their own, as opposed to scavengers that eat any meat they can find. Weasels are very active, and therefore need to eat at least onethird of their body weight every day in order to have sufficient energy to survive. The weasel’s diet consists of a large assortment of animals, including mice, frogs, chipmunks, squirrels, gophers, and lemmings. Weasels will even eat larger animals such as rabbits and ducks, and occasionally they’ll eat smaller creatures such as insects and worms. Weasels also like eggs and will invade the nests of their prey to get to them. Weasels are able to eat large eggs by biting a hole in one or both ends of the egg and sucking out the contents, leaving the shell behind.

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