They might look cute, but weasels have a few tricks up their sleeves. Let’s find out what makes them so cool.
- All the small things
The weasel is the smallest member of the Mustelidae family, and also Britain’s smallest carnivore. Other animals in the Mustelidae family include otters, badgers and ferrets.
2. Looks can be deceiving
Adorable as they are, weasels are skilled hunters. Due to having a fast metabolism, they need to kill and eat about half their body weight per day. He eats mostly mice and voles, and his small size allows him to go right into these animals’ burrows to hunt. The weasel’s hunting style is similar to that of the jaguar! He grabs his prey, wraps his strong body around it, and then kills it with a single bite to the back of the head, puncturing the skull or spinal cord. And sometimes the weasel will then continue to live in the burrow of the animal he hunted!
3. Tiny dancer
The weasel can be a silly little fellow who performs his own ‘war dance’, which consists of twisting, hopping and darting around when cornering his prey. It is not entirely clear why they do this, but it is thought that it helps to distract and confuse the prey.
4. You won’t weasel your way out of this one!
A sneaky, scheming and sly person is sometimes referred to as a weasel. This is derived from the weasel’s ability to adapt and manipulate situations to suit his own needs.
5. Changing coats
The weasel and another animal called a stoat are very similar to each other. One of the main differences is seen in their coat colours. The stoat has a black-tipped tail, and his full coat often turns white in winter.
The weasel cleverly learned to make the best of his icy cold habitat. While mice and voles make up the majority of their diet, they also eat rats, frogs and birds – and they make sure they have enough. When there is plenty of prey to go around, the weasel will often kill more than he can eat, as the food will stay fresh in the colder climates. They keep these leftovers in little underground caches they dig near their den entrances, and when it gets too cold to go outside, they simply grab a meal from there.
7. Word play
Just like with dogs, the male weasel is referred to as a dog and the female as a bitch. The babies are called kittens or kits. A group of weasels is called, among others, a gang or pack.
8. What’s that smell?
It is a very bad idea to scare and corner a weasel! Just like the skunk, the weasel has little pouches under his tail where he produces a thick, oily and yellowish fluid that he will blast at his opponent. And yes, you guessed right: this fluid smells disgusting!
9. Getting around
The weasel gets from one place to another by moving in a series of short jumps, and he is also an agile climber. When he wants to check out what is going on in his surroundings, he will stop and stand upright on his two hind feet.
10. Family ties
When the time comes for the female weasel to have babies, they will prepare a nest lined with hay and moss inside their burrows. Weasels will have kits once or twice a year, producing a litter of between three and six babies.