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Long-tailed Weasels Completing Their Spring Molt

email- long-tailed weasel in crotch of tree  IMG_7953Two species of weasels (smaller relatives of mink and otters) are found throughout New England – the long-tailed weasel (pictured) and the short-tailed weasel (also known as an ermine). Both are roughly the same size (somewhere between 9 and 16 inches), with long thin bodies and short legs. Visually telling these two species apart can be challenging unless you get a good look at both the tail and the body, and even then, it can be difficult. A short-tailed weasel’s tail is about 40% of the head and body length, whereas the long-tailed weasel’s tail is more than 45% of the head and body length. In the northeast, in November, both of these carnivores usually start shedding their brown summer coat for a white winter coat, and then molt and start growing in a brown coat again beginning in March. Further south, in Pennsylvania, less than half of the long-tailed weasels turn white, and none do south of the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. (Thanks to Tom Kennedy for photo op.)

6 responses

  1. Meade Cadot

    Hi Mary,

    Over the years, I’ve seen a number of brown weasels in winter hereabouts-and yet I know from road &cat kills that some long tailed weasels do turn white.

    All of the latter I’ve seen have been small and presumably female. So I’ve wondered for years whether changing to white around here might be sex-linked.

    Just a thought.

    Meade

    _____

    From: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] Sent: Monday, April 01, 2013 9:37 AM To: cadot@harriscenter.org Subject: [New post] Long-tailed Weasels Completing Their Spring Molt

    Mary Holland posted: “Two species of weasels (smaller relatives of mink and otters) are found throughout New England – the long-tailed weasel (pictured) and the short-tailed weasel (also known as an ermine). Both are roughly the same size (somewhere between 9 and 16 inches),”

    April 1, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    • Interesting, Meade. This was definitely a male…and I saw a white weasel two weeks ago, so it puzzled me how this one could be so far ahead of the one I saw (not the same one). I think you’re on to something!

      April 1, 2013 at 5:32 pm

  2. Cindy

    Mary, how did you know this was definitely a male? Size? Love the pink nose! Is that usual?

    April 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    • How do I put this? I got a clear view of the area beneath the weasel’s tail…and I do think the pink nose is typical.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm

  3. Pingback: Through the Window: March 2013 migrants and an unexpected mammal | Birds of Vermont Museum

  4. Jennifer Peterson

    Hi Mary,

    Do you have a reference for the percentages of color-changing/non-changing individuals?

    September 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

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