Mountain weasel

The mountain weasel (Mustela altaica), also known as the pale weasel, Altai weasel or solongoi, primarily lives in high-altitude environments, as well as rocky tundra and grassy woodlands.[2] This weasel rests in rock crevices, tree trunks, and abandoned burrows of other animals or the animals it previously hunted. The home range size of this animal is currently unknown. Geographical distribution for this species lies in parts of Asia from Kazakhstan, Tibet, and the Himalayas to Mongolia, northeastern China, and southern Siberia. The most common area for this species, however, is Ladakh, India. The conservation status, according to the IUCN, is near threatened because it is considered to be in significant decline and requires monitoring mainly because of habitat and resource loss.

Mountain weasel
Mountain Weasel (Mustela altaica)
In Hemis National Park, India
Scientific classification
Kingdom:
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Species:
M. altaica
Binomial name
Mustela altaica
Pallas, 1811

Description

MSU V2P1b - Mustela altaica raddei painting
Painting by A. N. Komarov.

Sexual dimorphism is slight in the Altai weasel.[3] The male body length from head to base of the tail is about 8.5–11 in (220–280 mm), with the tail adding about 4–6 in (100–150 mm). Males can weigh 8–12 oz (230–340 g).[3] Females are slightly smaller, with their head and body lengths measuring around 8.5–10 in (220–250 mm), with their tails adding 3.5–5 in (89–127 mm), and they weigh about 4–8 oz (110–230 g). This species undergoes seasonal molts during the spring and autumn. The summer coat consists of gray to gray-brown fur with some light yellow, while the winter fur is more of a dark yellow with some brown. In both coats, the underbelly is pale yellow to creamy white. The upper head between the muzzle and ears is usually darker gray-brown. The tail may be more rufous than the back. The summer fur is gray to gray-brown with some light yellow. The lips are white and the chin has grayish-brown vibrissae.[3]

Reproduction

Overall, these animals are thought to be solitary animals except when mating.[3] The mating system for these animals is unknown, but other species in the same genus are polygynous. Polygynous groups usually consist of one male and multiple females. The mountain weasel breeds once a year. Males fight vigorously for access to females. Mating usually occurs in February or March, and the young are usually born in May. The gestation period is 30–49 days, but these periods of gestation and birth can be altered because the animal is capable of delayed implantation; the female can breed and the egg is fertilized, but the egg does not attach to the endometrium in the uterus to continue pregnancy until resources are available to maintain the pregnancy and feed the young. The litter size is one to eight young. The offspring are born altricial, require nourishment and depend on the mother, their eyes are closed, and their fur is not well developed. Lactation lasts about two months, and after weaning, the young become independent but remain with their littermates until fall. Young are able to breed in the following season when they are just under a year of age.[3]

Behavior

The mountain weasel is capable of climbing, running, and swimming.[3] Their long bodies and short legs allow them to be very agile. Altai weasels are generally nocturnal, but may hunt during daylight. Although solitary, they communicate with each other visually and vocally. This animal has extremely good vision. They also communicate by sound to warn of possible predators, to protect their territories, and when mating. When threatened, they emit a loud chirring sound and excrete a foul, pungent odor from their anal glands.[4]

Food habits

The mountain weasels are strict carnivores; some other animals in the suborder Canifornia are omnivores. They primarily feed on pikas and voles; they have an important ecological role in reducing or limiting the population numbers of these rodents. Muskrats, rabbits, ground squirrels, small birds, lizards, frogs, fish, and insects are also found in their diet.[2]

Predation

Although no predators for this species have been reported, their main predators likely are large birds.[2]

Threats

Some threats causing the weasel to be considered near-threatened include habitat change, mainly caused by human development,[5] and other dangers, such as traffic on roads, which can reduce their population. Overgrazing by cattle, goats, and sheep causes the prey of the weasel to diminish because their hiding spots and food are reduced. Reduction in prey is also in part due to poisoning of its main food, the pika. The pika is considered a pest because it interferes with livestock feed. Poison also can kill the weasels when they consume poisoned pikas.

Conservation

The species is listed in appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wildlife fauna and flora. The category in which it is included consists of 45 species that are protected in at least one country which has asked for assistance in controlling the trade of that animal to safeguard resources for the future. The mountain weasel is also listed in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 in schedule II part II by the government of India, which states the animal receives absolute protection and offenders are prescribed the highest of penalties. Penalties may include three to seven years of imprisonment or a $25,000 fine.[6]

To initiate a plan to set a nature reserve, construction, staffing, access development, and research and monitoring of the species it intends to protect and preserve are required.[5] Sometimes, it is difficult to achieve all of these requirements. For example, nature preserves were proposed in China in the Yeniugou and Xiugou valleys. Unfortunately, the plans were denied by the authorities because they viewed it as an attempt to direct the government funds to Golmud, China where these valleys are located.[5]

However, a successful nature reserve includes the Altai weasel in Kazakhstan. The West Altai State Nature Reserve was created to preserve and protect the ecosystem of the mountains and Altai forests it surrounds. It is the biggest nature reserve in Kazakhstan, and includes about 52 species of mammals, including the Altai weasel and also the food of the weasel, the pika.[7]

Although no specific conservation strategy or program is dedicated to the Altai weasel, many other programs include it or it gains advantage. For example,the Kazakhstan nature reserve protects many different species. Also, programs that protect pikas and other small mammals also help protect the weasel; Sanjiangyuan, Changtang and Kekexili nature reserves in China are in this category. Another approach to conserving this animal would be to review conservation strategies of other species in the same genus. Population declines in Mustela lutrola, the European mink, are similar to the Altai weasel - primarily caused by habitat destruction, but also from diseases. A program was established in Russia to help conserve this species by captive breeding and reintroduction; the goal was to breed minks in captivity research stations.[8]

The animals were trained to swim, build dens, and hunt, then were reintroduced into the wild to live and reproduce. Transformation of captive-bred minks into a successful wildlife population did result in problems. The main problem is adaptation to captivity, which changes some behavioral and morphological characteristics of the animal, such as their lack of fear of predators. To fix this problem, minimizing the number of generations in captivity was recommended. They used cryopreservation of gametes and embryos. Using cryopreservation and recent cloning technologies are considerations for reproducing and reintroducing the minks into the wild to preserve the species population. This approach to conserving the species could also work for the Altai weasel. Another possible strategy could include putting aside passageways between grazing lands for the weasel to be able to pass through and between woodlands to capture its food without disturbing the grazing lands of the livestock. Being able to feed and interact with the domestic grazers would take cooperation and interest of the farmers.

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir it is list as an endangered species.

References

  1. ^ Abramov, A.; Wozencraft, C. & Ying-xiang, W. (2008). "Mustela altaica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of near threatened
  2. ^ a b c Allen,G.M. (1938). "Mammals of China and Mongolia". American Museum of Natural History. 1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f King, Carolyn (1989). The Natural History of Weasels and Stoats. Cornell University Press.
  4. ^ Stroganov, S. (1969). "Carnivorous Mammals of Siberia". IPST Press.
  5. ^ a b c Harris, R.B & Loggers (2004). "Status of Tibetan plateau mammals in Yeniugou,China". Wildlife Biology. 10: 91–99.
  6. ^ ""Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India. "The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972"". 1993.
  7. ^ "West Altai State Nature Reserve". Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  8. ^ S Amstislavsky; H Lindeberg; J Aalto & MW Kennedy (2008). "Conservation of the European mink (Mustela lutreola): focus on reproduction and Reintroduction".
Asiatic linsang

The Asiatic linsang (Prionodon) is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). Prionodon is considered a sister taxon of the Felidae.

Catopuma

Catopuma is a genus containing two Asian small wild cat species, the bay cat (C. badia) and the Asian golden cat (C. temminckii).

Both are typically reddish brown in colour, with darker markings on the head. They inhabit forested environments in Southeast Asia. The bay cat is restricted to the island of Borneo. Originally thought to be two subspecies of the same animal, recent genetic analysis has confirmed they are, indeed, separate species.The two species diverged from one another 4.9-5.3 million years ago, long before Borneo separated from the neighboring islands. Their closest living relative is the marbled cat, from which the common ancestor of the genus Catopuma diverged around 9.4 million years ago.

Ferret-badger

Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.

Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)

Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)

Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)

Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)

Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)

Indian brown mongoose

The Indian brown mongoose (Herpestes fuscus) looks similar to the short-tailed mongoose from Southeast Asia and is sometimes believed to be only a subspecies of this latter. The Indian brown mongoose is found in southwest India and Sri Lanka.

Indonesian mountain weasel

The Indonesian mountain weasel (Mustela lutreolina) is a species of weasel that lives on the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia at elevations over 1,000 metres (3,280 ft). They live in mountainous, tropical, and rainforest areas. Indonesian mountain weasels have a body length of 11–12 inches and a tail length of 5–6 inches. They are reddish-brown in color.

The Indonesian mountain weasel is endangered due to hunting, fur trade, and destruction of habitat. There are no subspecies of the Indonesian mountain weasel.

Lontra

Lontra is a genus of otters from the Americas.

Lutrogale

Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.

Mustelidae

The Mustelidae (; from Latin mustela, weasel) are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, mink, and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are diverse and the largest family in the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia. Mustelidae comprises about 56-60 species across eight subfamilies.

Mustelinae

Mustelinae is a subfamily of family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, ferrets amd minks.It was formerly defined in a paraphyletic manner to also include wolverines, martens, and many other mustelids, to the exclusion of the otters (Lutrinae).

Narrow-striped mongoose

The narrow-striped mongoose (Mungotictis decemlineata) is a member of the family Eupleridae, subfamily Galidiinae and endemic to Madagascar. It inhabits the Madagascar dry deciduous forests of western and southwestern Madagascar, where it lives from sea level to about 125 m (410 ft) between the Tsiribihina and Mangoky rivers. In Malagasy it is called bokiboky (pronounced "Boo-ky Boo-ky").

Nyctereutes

Nyctereutes is an Old World genus of the family Canidae, consisting of just one living species, the raccoon dog of East Asia. Nyctereutes appeared about 9.0 million years ago (Mya), with all but one species becoming extinct before the Pleistocene.

Native to East Asia, the raccoon dog has been intensively bred for fur in Europe and especially in Russia during the twentieth century. Specimens have escaped or have been introduced to increase production and formed populations in Eastern Europe. It is currently expanding rapidly in the rest of Europe, where its presence is undesirable because it is considered to be a harmful and invasive species.

Paradoxurinae

The Paradoxurinae are a subfamily of the viverrids that was denominated and first described by John Edward Gray in 1864.Pocock subordinated the oriental genera Paradoxurus, Paguma and Arctictis to this subfamily.

Paradoxurus

Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:

the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)

the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)

the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.

Pusa

Pusa is a genus of the earless seals, within the family Phocidae. The three species of this genus were split from the genus Phoca, and some sources still give Phoca as an acceptable synonym for Pusa.

The three species in this genus are found in Arctic and subarctic regions, as well as around the Caspian Sea. This includes these countries and regions: Russia, Scandinavia, Britain, Greenland, Canada, the United States, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Japan. Due to changing local environmental conditions, the ringed seals found in the Canadian region has varied patterns of growth. The northern Canadian ringed seals grow slowly to a larger size, while the southern seals grow quickly to a smaller size.

Only the Caspian seal is endangered.

Siberian weasel

The Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica) is a medium-sized weasel native to Asia, where it is widely distributed and inhabits various forest habitats and open areas. It is therefore listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Speothos

Speothos is a genus of canid found in Central and South America. The genus includes the living bush dog, Speothos venaticus, and an extinct Pleistocene species, Speothos pacivorus. Unusually, the fossil species was identified and named before the extant species was discovered, with the result that the type species of Speothos is S. pacivorus.

Weasel

A weasel is a mammal of the genus Mustela of the family Mustelidae. The genus Mustela includes the least weasels, polecats, stoats, ferrets and minks. Members of this genus are small, active predators, with long and slender bodies and short legs. The family Mustelidae (which also includes badgers, otters, and wolverines) is often referred to as the "weasel family". In the UK, the term "weasel" usually refers to the smallest species, the least weasel (M. nivalis).Weasels vary in length from 173 to 217 mm (6.8 to 8.5 in), females being smaller than the males, and usually have red or brown upper coats and white bellies; some populations of some species moult to a wholly white coat in winter. They have long, slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails may be from 34 to 52 mm (1.3 to 2.0 in) long.Weasels feed on small mammals and have from time to time been considered vermin because some species took poultry from farms or rabbits from commercial warrens. They do, on the other hand, eat large numbers of rodents. They can be found all across the world except for Antarctica, Australia, and neighbouring islands.

Zalophus

Zalophus is a genus of the family Otariidae (sea lions and fur seals) of order Carnivora. It includes these species, of which one became recently extinct:

Z. californianus: California sea lion

Z. japonicus: Japanese sea lion †

Z. wollebaeki: Galápagos sea lion

Extant Carnivora species

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