Weasels are small predators that typically live near bodies of water. They don’t usually come into conflict with humans, but they can be drawn indoors into barns and chicken coops if they’re looking for a quick meal. Chickens are a common target of weasels; one fatal attack can leave a large portion of a farmer’s flock injured or worse. Plus, because weasels are so agile and adverse to human contact, it’s incredibly difficult to capture the small carnivore before bearing witness to the irreparable damage it’s already caused.
What does a Weasel look like?
Three species of weasels are typically found in the United States: the long-tailed, short-tailed, and least weasel. At under 8 inches in length, the least weasel is the world’s smallest carnivorous mammal, while the long-tailed weasel may grow up to 24 inches long. Although they vary greatly in size, all weasels have long and slender bodies, short legs, and rounded ears. Coloration can range from snowy white to dark brown with light or dark markings.
What does a Weasel eat?
These fearless and aggressive predators use scent and sound to track their prey, then crush their heads or necks between their sharp teeth. Excellent swimmers and climbers, weasels prey on mice, squirrels, shrews, moles, small birds, snakes, and rabbits. Due to their small size, the pests often can’t eat their entire prey at once, causing them to store carcasses for later in holes, haystacks, or under rocks.
While weasels prefer to live near water in abandoned animal burrows or hollow trees, the pests can adapt to a wide variety of conditions. In fact, weasels live across the U.S. in every climate zone and, with the exception of Antarctica and Australia, can be found around the globe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Weasels and minks belong in the same family and bear a strong resemblance to each other. In fact, homeowners who spot a predator around their chicken coop or notice small, bounding tracks in the yard may have trouble figuring out which pest is responsible.
To distinguish between the two animals, it helps to know more about their defining traits.
Weasels are the smaller of the two animals, averaging only 14 to 16 inches long. They can be brown, yellow, or tan with pale fur on their necks and bellies. Some species’ coats change to pure white in winter. Weasels live in forests or fields and do not swim or hunt in water.
On the other hand, minks are excellent swimmers and prefer to live around water with woodlands nearby. The pests are also heavier and larger than most weasels. A mink’s thick, waterproof fur is usually dark brown to black with white markings on the throat and chin.