In detail

The ermine - profile


Characteristics

Surname: Ermine
Other names: Short-tailed Weasel, Big Weasel
Latin name: Mustela erminea
class: Mammals
size: 20-30cm
mass: 150 - 350g
Older: 2 - 8 years
Appearance: white to reddish brown fur
Sexual dimorphism: Yes
Nutrition type: Carnivore
food: Fish, insects and their larvae, rodents, bird eggs
distribution: America, Asia, Europe, Australia
original origin: North America
Sleep-wake rhythm: diurnal
habitat: unspecific
natural enemies: Badger, fox, owl
sexual maturity: still in the first year of life
mating season: April June
gestation: 30 days
litter size: 5 - 15 cubs
social behavior: Family Association
Threatened with extinction: No
Further profiles of animals can be found in the Encyclopaedia.

Interesting facts about the ermine

  • The ermine or Mustela erminea describes a type of weasels within the marten family.
  • It is widespread in all the temperate zones of America, Asia and Europe in the northern hemisphere. Due to introduction, it is also found in Australia and New Zealand, where it significantly threatens the ecological balance.
  • The ermine inhabits with the exception of dense forests different landscapes and altitudes of up to 3500 meters. It is found in meadows, gardens, parks, fields and hedgerows, preferring areas near water.
  • This predator, also known as the short-tailed weasel, is best known for its snow-white fur, which has been intensively hunted in the past. Especially the precious robes of kings and nobility were often decorated with ermine fur.
  • The white coat with the black tip of the tail shows up only in winter and allows a perfect camouflage in the snow. In summer, the ermine is brown on the top, dirty white or yellowish on the belly side. In warmer regions, the coat stays brown all year round.
  • Like all martens, the ermine is elongated and slender, with short legs and a pointed tail. It reaches total body lengths of up to fifty centimeters (including tail) and a maximum weight of 350 grams, with males being larger and heavier than females.
  • In the warm season, the ermine is mainly day and twilight active, in winter, however, it goes only in the dark looking for food.
  • After short periods of activity for food intake, it retreats for several hours to its hiding place, which it finds in a tree cave, an abandoned earthwork, a crevice or under a pile of wood. With feathers, leaves or hair, the nest is softly padded.
  • As a predator, the ermine feeds on rodents and other small mammals, birds and insects, but occasionally also captures fish and amphibians. The victims are surprised from behind and killed with a bite in the head.
  • The mating takes place in the warm summer months. After the dormancy and a gestation period of only one month, the female gives birth to several blind pups in the spring of next year, which are nursed for six weeks.
  • The maximum life expectancy is seven to eight years, but many stoats fall prey to birds of prey, foxes and badgers.