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An ermine Or Short Tailed Weasel Of The Northwoods

Updated on September 10, 2014
Riverman57 profile image

Was employed by A.T. & T. for twenty eight years after four years in the U.S.Navy.Then owned a bait and tackle store in Northern Wisconsin

Learn more about the (ermine) short tailed weasel

A ermine or short-tailed weasel of the northwoods is most likely the smallest carnivore around. This little guy wears two "coats", a light brown summer coat with white underneath, and an all white winter coat. The tail is black tipped.

The ermines have a typical weasel shape; a very long body, short legs and a pointed face with an almost triangular head.

The white winter coat is the source of the common name "ermine", which is a French word for "white winter color"

The males tend to be slightly larger than the female. They are only about 8 to 13 inches long with another 2-4 inches of tail. The total weight of these little guys normally is only 2-7 ounces.

Winter Coat
Winter Coat

The Range Of The Ermine

They range from Alaska, Canada, through most of the northern U.S. down the Rocky Mountains to California, northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, and east to Iowa, the Great Lakes region, Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia.

Ermines appear to maintain territories which have a wide range in size. Home ranges of from 8 to 500 acres.

There are numerous stories about ermines' very strong "mousing" abilities. Having one live in our wood last winter proved to me that this is very true. We had no trouble with mice getting into the house.

Ermines are most abundant in thickets, woodland, and semi-timbered areas.



One Living Near By Elimates Rodents Quickly.

They feed primarily on small mammals, but will also eat other small vertebrates and insects. They are good climbers so they can raid bird and squirrel nests.

Ermine are relatively pure carnivores and eat voles, shrews, deer mice, rabbits, rats, chipmunks and a small amount of beetles, grasshoppers, and frogs.

Their predatory skills are remarkable when you imagine that an ermine can kill a rabbit.

The ermine has a very high metabolic rate and a high need for large amounts of food. This is due to their long, slim body shape, which allows a higher than usual body heat loss.

Their daily activity in the winter it often hunting under the snow for a rodent by using their burrows unless they can find a meal like the below video.

mmer Coat
mmer Coat


This species has adapted to a variety of habitats from low-elevation marshes to alpine meadows, or any location where there is an abundance of prey (small rodents). But they prefer wooded areas with thick understory near watercourses.

When inactive, they occupy a den under logs, stumps, roots, brush piles, or rocks.

I have seen them around a country store in the past. The shrews and field mice must have been more plentiful around the buildings. I had one living in my backyard all winter long 2010-2011. This little creator stayed under an upside down basket that was covered with snow all winter long.

They are not seen often but are a welcome quest around my house in the Fall of the year. Due to their meat eating abilities it is seldom a mouse survives when they are near.


Breeding occurs in early to mid summer and development is rapid, the young are born 4 weeks later. Female produces 4-9 young, born mid-April t early May. Females reach sexual maturity in 3-4 mo; males are sexually mature in about 12 months. Young are very small at birth but development is very rapid. By the fifth week weaning is underway and the young are fed some meat. They continue to nurse for 7 to 12 weeks.

Ermine Enemies

Hazards Of Being So Small

The ermine's being small in nature have many enemies to fear such as snowy owls, foxes, various hawks, eagles, coyotes, badgers, wolves, and fur hunters.

This may be a very good reason for not seeing this animal frequently in the wild.

The population in our area must be fairly small for I have only seen two in over twenty years.

Leave Us A Comment - Ermine

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    • Riverman57 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Hayward, Wisconsin

      @Pinnsvin: Thanks for stopping - I enjoy putting up informational sites.

    • Riverman57 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Hayward, Wisconsin

      @GardenerDon: Interesting little animal - if you can keep one around you will not have any mice problems.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      What a cute little animal! Very informative lens :)

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 

      5 years ago

      Just stumbled on this lens - a great read! I knew nothing about these animals, so learned a lot

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      6 years ago

      Excellent, informative lens. Thanks!

    • efriedman profile image


      7 years ago

      Also featured this ermine lens on my newly published lens about pikas.

    • efriedman profile image


      7 years ago

      Enjoyed this lens. I once saw an ermine from a ski lift. He (she?) was scurrying along the snow - invisible except the movement. I am featuring this lens on my Animal Identification.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have an ermine living in my house that i can't seem to catch and get it out....

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! Blessed by a Squid Angel and I'm lensrolling this to my lens: Animal Study- Ermine.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i love this animal..


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