(Mustela nivalis). Patient Number 22-258.
Date of admission: May 24, 2022.
Reason for admission: Orphaned.
The Least Weasel is the smallest weasel and the smallest carnivore in North America. They are less than 10 inches and weigh 1-3 ounces or 25 grams. Least Weasels change color seasonally. They are brown colored with a white stomach in summer and all white in winter. You can also identify them by their short tail, with no black tip. Other weasels such as Ermines are known to have a black tip to their tails.
Least Weasels can be found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Weasels burrow and live in dens, and their habitat consists of meadows, fields, brushy areas, and open woods. They prefer 'ecotones,' the area between different biological communities, and they avoid dense forest areas.
Least Weasels are only a little larger than mice, but even with the small size difference, they feed entirely on mice, voles, shrews, and lemmings. Larger males of the species can even eat larger prey like rabbits or water voles. They cache away excess food and use their prey’s fur to line their underground nests. Least Weasels can run up to 25km/h making them good hunters for their size. Weasels are helpful to humans as they can keep control of common household pests like mice, shrews, and voles.
Least Weasels can have 2-3 litters per year and have litters of 3-12 kits. Their gestation period is 35 days to 10 months because of the possibility of delayed implantation. The kits grow rapidly and can be full-grown at 4-5 weeks and fully mature at 3-8 months. They can live from 1 to 10 years.
This Least Weasel was brought to us from Vulcan, AB, just south of Calgary. He was found inside a barn, and after the rescue, it was revealed that his mother had passed previously, possibly from a cat attack. Despite being orphaned, he is in relatively good body condition and has also just opened his eyes in care. His activity levels have increased and he has begun tunneling when given towels and toilet paper rolls. He will remain with us until old enough to be returned to the wild. Thank you for supporting his care!