Facts About Weasels Found in North America & How to Protect Your Property
Like many species of wildlife, weasels are seemingly cute animals that can still cause harm and/or property damage in ways we wouldn’t always expect.
That includes the weasels we find right here in the United States.
These small mammals belong to the Mustelidae family, a family that also includes other small critters like ferrets, badgers, and even some species of skunks.
Of the different species of weasels, there are three species that call North America home: long-tailed weasel, short-tailed weasel, and least weasel.
Weasel Habitats & Facts
Weasels found in different areas of North America have some similar features, which can make it difficult to distinguish between each.
Weasels are typically long and thin with a light-colored fur on their belly, short legs, and small heads with rounded ears.
These weasels can be spotted in different areas throughout North America, including the northeastern part of the United States.
Yes — this means those of us living in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and the surrounding states can encounter a weasel infestation.
They typically thrive in environments with plenty of smaller rodents, which makes a tasty meal for the weasel.
Their bodies don’t store fat, so weasels search for food during most of the day. Weasels will even store food if they have a surplus. This allows the critter to eat when food is scarce.
Weasel sounds have a range of purposes. Loud, high-pitched squeaking is typically used in response to a threat. Low whistles, or trilling sounds, on the other hand can be used as a greeting.
Other weasel sounds range from soft bark-like noises, hisses, to chirps. Loud weasel sounds around your property can become annoying and may even keep you awake at night.
The long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) has mostly brown fur with white or slightly yellow-colored belly fur, the tips of their tails are black.
These critters can be found throughout the United States, apart from southeast California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Long-tailed weasels live in a variety of habitats including woodlands, thickets, and farmland. They usually live in abandoned burrows, hollowed-out logs, or nests under rockpiles.
This can be quite problematic if your property has ever had skunks or other burrowing rodents create dens. If these dens are not properly dealt with, it can be a welcoming invitation for another rodent.
Long-tailed weasels will release a strong-smelling musk during mating season or if feels threatened. Breeding season is from July until August. The litter will be born between March and early April. The litter size can range from one to 12 kits.
This loner does not hibernate and can be quite active at night — but that does not mean long-tailed weasels won’t be spotted or heard during the day.
Weasels can be quite aggressive and territorial, especially if feeling threatened. If you think your home or property has a weasel infestation, it’s best to leave wildlife control and removal to the professionals.
Short-tailed weasels (Mustela erminea) are the second smallest member of the weasel family.
Much like the long-tailed weasel, the short-tailed weasel, also known as the ermine, is a predator. The critter prefers smaller prey, like voles, shrews, and mice.
The short-tailed weasel has a brown coat during the summer months, but the coat becomes white during the winter months.
Contrary to popular belief, the change in fur color is triggered by the length of daylight, not temperature. This means short-tailed weasels are at risk during periods without snow as the white fur stands out against brown landscapes.
Except for breeding season, it is very rare to find a male and female together.
Short-tailed weasel breeding season happens from late spring and into summer. Gestation takes approximately 280 days and will result in an average of six or seven kits.
This gestation period allows female weasels to give birth during ideal environmental conditions.
Short-tailed weasel habitats vary from open woodlands, bushy areas, grasslands, wetlands, and farmlands. While the critter prefers a significant amount of coverage and protection, they typically avoid dense forests.
Burrowing in hollowed out logs or under low-clearance areas like decks or sheds, this can be problematic for homeowners and business owners alike.
Least weasels (Mustela nivalis) are the smallest members of the weasel family. The critter averages 7 or 9 inches in length, including the tail. Like other animals, male weasels are typically larger than females.
Unlike the aptly named long-tailed weasel, least weasels have tails that are quite short and do not have a black tip. They have brown-colored fur on most of their bodies, with the exception of the belly fur, which is white.
This small-statured critter primarily feeds on mice and voles. But will also make a tasty meal from insects or small birds if other prey is scarce.
The least weasel can adapt and thrive in a multitude of climates and habitats. They can be found in grasslands, open woodlands, along field edges, and bushy landscapes.
Much like the rest of the weasel family, least weasels are not social creatures and prefer a solitary lifestyle.
Least weasels will mate from April through July. Unlike its counterparts, this critter’s gestation period is less than 40 days. On average, the litter will have six kits.
Protect Your Property from Weasels
Whether it’s long-tailed weasels, or another member of the family, the critter can certainly help with rodent control. But that doesn’t mean weasels should make a home for themselves in your home or business.
Since weasel habitats include many low-clearance places like sheds, decks, and areas around your landscape, it’s important to exclude wildlife to protect your property.
Catseye Pest Control’s exclusion services are chemical-free and environmentally friendly. These long-term solutions will defend against critters looking to move into your home without impacting the surrounding environment.
For more information about Cat-Guard Exclusion Systems and a free inspection, contact our wildlife technicians today.