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Mammal  Weasels

Weasel - Photo  Copyright 2003 - Andy Darrington
Photo: Andy Darrington

UK Safari Tip:
Get help identifying weasels, stoats and other land mammals with a fully illustrated fold-out chart - click here

Latin name: Mustela nivalis

Size: The head and body is approximately 20cms long. The tail is around 7cms long. They weigh around 100-170 grams.

Distribution: Found all over mainland Britain, Isle of Wight, Anglesey and Skye. They are absent from Ireland.

Months seen: All year round.

Habitat: Normally found on farmland, around farm buildings, park land, and waste ground. anywhere there is food!

Food: Mice, voles, shrews, small rabbits, birds and birds eggs.

Special features: The weasel is our smallest native carnivore. They are similar in appearance to the stoat, although the stoat is generally a little larger and has a black tip to its tail. the weasel also has a brown patch of fur around its throat.

Weasels have long slender bodies which are ideal for squeezing down mouse holes in search of prey. They will often use these mouse holes to sleep in.

Like most carnivores they are persecuted by man. Some gamekeepers still regard them as vermin, and while it is true they will sometimes eat the eggs of game birds, they have the redeeming quality of keeping down the populations of mice and voles.

Their breeding season is from March to September. They have two litters each year, the first is usually born in May. A litter may contain between three and eight young. They are born in a nest which is usually made from grass and dry leaves in a hollow tree.

Weasels have a lifespan of between three and four years.

Although you will not find the weasel in Ireland, you can find stoats there. To confuse matters, stoats in Ireland are called weasels, because they are smaller than the stoats found on mainland Britain.

Did You Know?
For hundreds of years weasels were thought to possess magical powers! In the Middle ages it was believed that weasels could bring their dead young back to life. It was also thought that they could hypnotize their prey by dancing in front of it.

Track Down More Info

What Weasels Want

Shaky video clip of a weasel catching a bank vole - 844KB (Requires Windows Media Player)

UK Safari Mammal Section

  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved