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.
|Siberian weasel in Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim district of India|
|In summer coat from Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, India|
|Siberian weasel range|
(green – native, red – introduced)
Siberian weasels have long, stretched out bodies with relatively short legs, but are more heavily built than solongois, stoats and least weasels. Their heads are elongated, narrow and relatively small, and their ears are broad at the base, but short. Their tails represent half their body length. Siberian weasels are much larger than stoats and solongois, and almost approach ferrets and minks in size. Adult males are 28–39 cm long, while females reach 25–30.5 cm. The tail in males reaches 15.5–21 cm in length, while that of females reaches 13.3–16.4 cm. Males weigh 650–820 g, while females weigh 360–430 g. Exceptionally large individuals have on rare occasions occurred in the Baraba steppe. The skull is in several respects intermediate in form between that of the stoat and the mink ; it is longer and larger than that of the stoat, but is somewhat more flattened than the mink's.
Their winter fur is very dense, soft and fluffy, with guard hairs reaching 3–4 cm in length. The underfur is dense and loose fitting. Siberian weasels are monotone in colour, being bright reddish-ocherous or straw-red, though orange or peach tones are sometimes noticeable on the skin. These tones are especially bright on the back, while the flanks and underbelly are paler. A dark, coffee-brown mask is present on the face. Their tails are more brightly coloured than the back, and are fluffier than those of other members of the genus. The lips and chin are white or slightly ochreous. The front of the muzzle is darker than the remaining parts of the head.
Siberian weasels have an extended rutting period which is subject to geographic variation. The rut begins in early February to late March in western Siberia. In Primorye, the rut begins in early March to late April. Six pairs of Siberian weasels in a fur sovkhoz near Moscow began rutting from 25 April to 15 May. They mate for 35 minutes, doing so repeatedly. The gestation period lasts 38–41 days. There is one record of a female giving birth after only 28 days. Litters consist of 4–10 kits.
Kits are born blind and sparsely furred with white wool. They develop light yellow wool after a few days, and open their eyes after a month. Lactation stops after two months, and the kits stop growing and become independent by late August. By this time, the young are distinguished from the adults solely by their darker coats, deciduous tooth formula and lighter bones.
Siberian weasels are not fussy about their shelters. They may nest inside fallen logs, empty stumps, brushwood piles and exposed tree roots. They also use and enlarge the dens of other animals. The length of their burrows range from 0.6–4.2 metres and are 0.2–1.3 metres deep. The nesting chamber, which is located in the middle or end of the passage, is lined with bird feathers and rodent wool. In addition to a permanent burrow, adults have up to five temporary shelters which may be separated from each other by several kilometres.
In terms of prey selection, Siberian weasels are midway between small, rodent-eating mustelids and the more polyphagous martens. They rarely eat reptiles, invertebrates and plants, preferring instead to prey on rodents of small to moderate size. Water voles are their most frequent prey in their western range, while voles and mice are eaten in their eastern range. Moderate sized rodents targeted by Siberian weasels in the east include Daurian and Alpine pikas, and Siberian zokors. In local areas, chipmunks, muskrats, red squirrels and jerboas are eaten. Fish may be eaten in some areas during certain seasons. In Ussuriland, they may scavenge extensively on the kills of wolves and yellow-throated martens during the winter. Elsewhere, small birds are an important food item. Reptiles and amphibians are typically eaten at the periphery of the Siberian weasel's range. Plant foods known to be eaten by Siberian weasels include pine nuts and actinidia fruits. They typically eat about 100–120 gm of food daily, and cache excess food. In urban areas in China, Siberian weasels prey extensively on rats. They are capable of single-handedly killing and dragging the largest fowls. In contrast to sables, which are ambush predators, Siberian weasels are active hunters, readily chasing prey through snow, logs, water and people's houses.
As of 2005, eleven subspecies are recognised.
The range of the Siberian weasels includes northern Myanmar, Laos, North Korea, Pakistan, Nepal, India, (Himalayas), Bhutan, Russia (from the Kirov Province, Tataria, and the western Urals through Siberia and the Russian Far East), Taiwan and northern Thailand. They have been introduced to Honshu, Shikoku, Kamishima and Jebu.
Although Siberian weasels are overall useful for limiting rodent populations, they are nonetheless damaging to poultry and muskrat farms. They frequently enter the roosts of domesticated fowl and pigeons, sometimes killing more than they can eat.
Siberian weasels are valuable furbearers, being significantly harvested in Siberia and the Far East. Their fur is used both in its natural state and for imitating the fur of more valuable species. A couple of alternative names for the fur were Tartar sable and fire marten. Siberian weasel fur is also used to make the so-called kolinsky sable-hair brush. In China, their orange fur is largely used to create ink brush for calligraphers. The name of the brush is thus 狼毫筆, lit. 'wolf hairs brush', as a reduction from 黃鼠狼 + 毫 + 筆, lit. "yellow rat wolf" "hairs" "brush". Their hairs are appreciated because they are harder than goat hair (羊毫). They are hunted by shooting with dogs or through the use of box traps. They are extremely aggressive when caught in traps, emitting piercing shrieks and letting loose a pungent secretion which reportedly takes a month to wash away.
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The Egyptian weasel (Mustela subpalmata) is a species of weasel that lives in northern Egypt. It is rated "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List.European mink
The European mink (Mustela lutreola), also known as the Russian mink and Eurasian mink, is a semiaquatic species of mustelid native to Europe.
It is similar in colour to the American mink, but is slightly smaller and has a less specialized skull. Despite having a similar name, build and behaviour, the European mink is not closely related to the American mink, being much closer to the European polecat and Siberian weasel (kolonok). The European mink occurs primarily by forest streams unlikely to freeze in winter. It primarily feeds on voles, frogs, fish, crustaceans and insects.The European mink is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered due to an ongoing reduction in numbers, having been calculated as declining more than 50% over the past three generations and expected to decline at a rate exceeding 80% over the next three generations. European mink numbers began to shrink during the 19th century, with the species rapidly becoming extinct in some parts of Central Europe. During the 20th century, mink numbers declined all throughout their range, the reasons for which having been hypothesised to be due to a combination of factors, including climate change, competition with (as well as diseases spread by) the introduced American mink, habitat destruction, declines in crayfish numbers and hybridisation with the European polecat. In Central Europe and Finland, the decline preceded the introduction of the American mink, having likely been due to the destruction of river ecosystems, while in Estonia, the decline seems to coincide with the spread of the American mink.Ferret-badger
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Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)
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Future actions proposed to conserve this species include surveying its breeding habits throughout Japan and the Philippines, protecting its habitat, creating more public interest and awareness in the bird, and stopping invasive species from competing with it.Japanese weasel
The Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi) is a carnivorous mammal belonging to the genus Mustela in the family Mustelidae. It is native to Japan where it occurs on the islands of Honshū, Kyūshū and Shikoku. It has been introduced to Hokkaidō and the Ryukyu Islands to control rodents and has also been introduced to Sakhalin island in Russia.It is often classified as a subspecies of the Siberian weasel (M. sibirica). The two species are very similar in appearance but differ in the ratio of tail length to head and body length. There are also genetic differences which suggest that the two diverged around 1.6-1.7 million years ago. Their ranges now overlap in western Japan where the Siberian weasel has been introduced.Adult males of the Japanese weasel can reach 35 cm (14 in) in body length with a tail length of up to 17 cm (6.7 in). Females are smaller. The fur is orange-brown with darker markings on the head. The species typically occurs in mountainous or forested areas near water. Its diet includes mice, frogs, reptiles, insects and crayfish.List of species native to Thailand
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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
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The Oriental reed warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis) is a passerine bird of eastern Asia belonging to the reed warbler genus Acrocephalus. It was formerly classified as a subspecies of the great reed warbler (A. arundinaceus) of western Eurasia.Paradoxurus
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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.Sable
The sable (Martes zibellina) is a species of marten, a small carnivorous mammal primarily inhabiting the forest environments of Russia, from the Ural Mountains throughout Siberia, and northern Mongolia. Its habitat also borders eastern Kazakhstan, China, North Korea and Hokkaidō, Japan. Its range in the wild originally extended through European Russia to Poland and Scandinavia. Historically, it has been hunted for its highly valued dark brown or black fur, which remains a luxury good to this day. While hunting is still common in Russia, most fur on the market is now commercially farmed.Weasel
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Mustela sibirica sibirica
|Pallas, 1773||A small subspecies with light, yellowish-red fur. Skull length in males is 5.8–6.3 cm, while in females it is 4.9–5.6 cm||All of Siberia eastward to the Zeya River basin, contiguous parts of Mongolia and possibly extreme western parts of northeastern China||australis (Satunin, 1911)|
miles (Barrett-Hamilton, 1904)
Mustela sibirica canigula
|Hodgson, 1842||Distinguished from other subspecies by having a much greater amount of white fur around the muzzle, neck and almost to the forelimbs. It has an exceptionally thick coat and bushy tail. The body is bright foxy-red, and lacks a black tail-tip||Tibet|
Mustela sibirica charbinensis
Mustela sibirica coreanus
|Domaniewski, 1926||Korean Peninsula||peninsulae (Kishida, 1931)|
Mustela sibirica davidiana
|Milne-Edward's, 1871||Has a more intense colouration than fontanierii, being almost
ochreous orange in fresh winter pelage
|Southeast China north to Hubei, Taiwan||melli (Matschie, 1922)|
noctis (Barrett-Hamilton, 1904)
|North Chinese kolonok
Mustela sibirica fontanierii
|Milne-Edwards, 1871||Has a uniform pale fulvous coat with a pale brown forehead and muzzle, with varying degrees of white in the center of the throat and neck||Northern China, including Beijing, Hebei, Shandong, Shaanxi and Shanxi||stegmanni (Matschie, 1907)|
Mustela sibirica hodgsoni
|Gray, 1843||Distinguished from canigula by the smaller amount of white on the muzzle, the head's darker hue and the white area of the throat being limited to white patches rather than forming a continuous line. It is similar in size to subhemachalana and moupinensis, though its skull is smaller than the latter's||Kashmir and western Himalayas from Kam to Garwal|
|Far Eastern kolonok
Mustela sibirica manchurica
|Brass, 1911||A somewhat larger subspecies than sibirica, with a lighter red coloured coat. Skull length in males is 6.3–6.7 cm, while in females it is 5.7-.6.2 cm||Priamurye to the west of the Zeya, Primorye and northeastern China|
Mustela sibirica moupinensis
|Milne-Edwards, 1974||Closely resembles subhemachalana in having a black tail-tip, but distinguished by its larger skull and greater incidence of white fur on the muzzle||Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan and Burma||hamptoni (Thomas, 1921)|
major (Hilzheimer, 1910)
Mustela sibirica quelpartis
|Thomas, 1908||Quelpart Island|
Mustela sibirica subhemachalana
|Hodgson, 1837||Smaller than sibirica and has a blackish tail-tip. It lacks the typical white patch on the sides of the muzzle, which is blackish, save for narrow white lines on the edge of the upper lip and a white chin. The general colour ranges from bright foxy-red to dark chocolate brown||Himalayas from Nepal to Bhutan||horsfieldii (Gray, 1843)|
humeralis (Blyth, 1842)
Extant Carnivora species