I found this very confusing, and as I found out, most people cannot tell their mustelids apart….particularly what is a ferret, or a stoat or weasel? (for HK see last paragraph). Well, firstly, what is a mustelid…. Mustelids, or actually that can be Mustelidae in the plural, are a very diverse family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, martens, and wolverines - (but not skunks or mongooses) - with about a total of 70 species in nine subfamilies.
warning a bit of graphic content...
This post came about because I found this happening in front of me when I was skiing in the Wasatch mountains last week. I saw a dead hare (a snowshoe hare), with blood and when I went to move it this little chappy jumped out at me, protecting his kill and trying to move his prey to his hole. I helped him out by putting the dead hare off piste and next to his burrow, where he pulled it down for a winter feast.
This is a short tailed weasel, in his winter coat (as they are brown in non-snowy non-winter months), and it can therefore be called an “ermine”…. or being “in ermine” - though sometimes this is only in reference to the white fur itself.
The weasel is the smallest of the three most commonly confused (weasel, stoat and ferret) but where it gets confusing is that a stoat in winter white fur can also be called an ermine. Plus, common names in different places means that you can have the following description…..”Also known as the short-tailed weasel or stoat, the ermine is Alaska's cute, color-changing weasel”. Phew…..
See the next two blog posts for more information on these and other mustelids..,