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Long-tailed weasel

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Long-tailed weasel
Weasel medium.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Mustela frenata

MF snow.jpg
Mustela Frenata dressed in its winter coat

Long-tailed weasel is a species of weasel known by the scientific name Mustela Frenata. They inhabit most of North America, United States-Canadian border, Central America, and Northern South America. Although widely dispersed trough the North and South American continent, the largest distribution of long-tailed weasels are in the Western Hemisphere. They live in temperate and tropical habitats in both North and South America. These amazing creatures can live just about anywhere. Their habitats can be at a variety of different places; for example, a field full of crops, a small wooden area, and suburban areas. They are said to be native to the North American continent. Ecosystems are aided as well by having the weasels live in them. The long-tailed weasel is truly in the carnivore family. Their prey include small rodents, cottontail rabbits, birds, reptiles, and in the summertime fruits and berries. Being very aggressive they also attack larger prey, such as, owls, coyotes, and even snakes. Mustela frenata will stand up to any predator it wants to get its teeth in. This animal is a fighter and won’t be judged by its size. Some other behaviors that they portray include them being diurnal, nocturnal, motile, solitary and territorial. The long-tailed weasel may be small but makes a big impact on its ecosystem. Small is powerful! [2]

Body Design

top skull of Mustela frenata and sharp canine teeth
bottom part of the Mustela frenata skull

The Mustela frenata, also known as the long-tailed weasel, is famous for their long bodies. They have the longest tail of any North American weasel. Attached to these bodies are four short little legs. They also posses very strong sent glands, as well. There face consists of a bridle-like mask, which comes from the Latin name (Mustela frenate). The odd shaped complexion of their furry faces gives them the characteristic they need, to stand out from the others. It’s also has between 28 and 38 teeth. Consisting of long, sharp canines that are used well to hunt and kill prey for them to eat. Speaking of fur, this organism, changes color depending on the different seasons.

In the summer months then long-tailed weasel is brown with white under parts, and have cute little brownish feet. The weasel turns brown in the summer so that blending in with the environment is easier. In the summer time, lots and lots of brown populate the area; such as tree trunks and dirt on the ground, all of which h are ways the weasel uses as protection. Its proud long tail consists of being all brown except for a small patch of black located on the end of the tail. This black tip is used to confuse predators that might want to harm or even eat the weasel. They confuse the black tip as the organisms head, thus drawing its attention away from the weasel. The predator believes it’s vulnerable and quickly makes its leave.

During the months of winter the weasel changes from brown to pure white. The only parts of the body that do not change are the organism’s dark ebony eyes and the tip of black on the tail. This color change usually occurs gradually during the months of October to early December and again in February to late April. The changes that occur in and out of the weasel seem to go at a controlled pace and are not environmentally influenced.

Mustela frenata’s body is long, slender, and sinuous. Its actual body length (not counting the tail) can range from 11- 22 inches (28-56 cm). The tail of the weasel measures from 3-6 inches (8-15 cm). Its weigh depends on how long the weasel is, but usually ranges at around 3-9 ounces (85-267 g). Males are twice as large as females so the size difference is ignoramus indeed. [1]

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a long-tailed weasel starts in the summer, the season when its mates. Although it mates in the summer, eggs don’t develop until around 27 days before the kits (baby weasels) are born. In the spring little weasels come into the dangerous world we live in. One mother weasel may give birth to up to 4-8 kits at a time. Kits are born blind to the world with a thin covering of fur to keep them warm. About 36 days pass before their eyes open wide; they are also weaned around this time. The mother brings them their first serving of meat and teaches them how to hunt so they can live on their own. When the kits are 7-8 weeks old they leave their mother to live out in the wild. As the kits grow up the cycle begins all over again when the mating season begins, in the summer. [3]

Ecology

Mustela frenata's habitat range

When the Mustela Frenate or long-tailed weasel leaves its birthing home, it lives to hunt. Having a very high metabolism rate and expenditure of energy, it is active all year around. The weasel searches for a good hunting route, one that has an abundance of food for nutrients. Once a suitable hunting route is found, it repeatedly returns to that same place until the food supply runs out and/or the place gets destroyed. Despite the weasels cute and cuddly appearance, this organism is a carnivore and is dangerous, not to humans but to its prey. Invading narrow dens, climbing trees and shrubs, swims swiftly through streams, and even tunnels beneath snow, the weasel will do all of these things to obtain its prey. For an example, the long-tailed weasel may climb more than 20 feet up a tree, just to capture a squirrel. This weasel is brave attacking quarry sometimes even several times bigger than itself. With its unbridled ferocity, it’s not afraid to kill for food. The process for killing its prey is fairly simple; all the weasel has to do is first, approach it prey (usually way bigger than itself, making the organism think it has the upper hand), showing no sign of fear. With smaller prey the weasel uses its sharp incisors to kill it meal by driving them in the head. Bigger prey, on the other hand, have a long and more painful process that goes along with it. It ambushes its behemoth prey by clinging to the back and biting into its neck, so to make sure that a lethal wound is left. The prey usually ends up bleeding to death and dies. Long-tailed weasels have even been spotted to attack and slaughter a cage of enclosed chickens in one setting. Other then chicken, the weasel is known to hunt ground squirrels, pocket gophers, wood rats, cotton rats, small cottontails, etc. It may also consume insects, but those are only a small percentage of the weasel’s diet. Birds are included also in the diet, but that’s only on rare occasions when other food is scares. By eating this way, the long-tailed weasel helps keep the forest in check so that no one population of a species grows too big.

Though being a strong hunter, the weasel also may become someone else’s meal. If they fall into the wrong mouth, such as hawks, owls, foxes, bobcats, house cats, or snakes it may just end up becoming their food supply. Other than becoming a meal, the long-tailed weasel does a lot to help the environment.[4]

Recent discoveries

Mustela frenata is quite a unique organism living in the wood-lands of North America. Like most organisms, this one has been studied by scientists. And as technology increases, we begin to understand and learn more about the amazing world around us. Some information we have recently obtained from research tells us a lot about this organism that we would have never known about half a century ago. The following include some of the facts we now have access to: The range mass of Mustela frenata is 80-450 grams (2.82-15.86 oz); the average mass of it is 150.6 grams (5.31 oz). Its range length is 203- 266 mm (7.99- 10.47 in). As you may have guessed already, the males are bigger than the females. The average length for a male is 23-24.45cm (9.06-9.63in), the females length is slightly smaller averaging out at 21.55cm (8.48in). We also have come to figure out that these weasels only mate once each year and that the young are born from April- May. The gestation period of these organisms are very high, ranging at around 280-337 days. Birth mass for these creatures is around 3.1 grams and the weaning ages are between 30-36 days. All organisms mature, some at different paces then others, but in the long-tailed weasel’s sake, male and females take the same amount of time to mature. The lifespan of the weasel is around 8.8 years, not the longest living organisms in the world, but definitely one of the toughest. As studies show, we have learned a lot of the Musela frenata in the past years. Scientists hope to learn even more in the years to come. [5]

Video

A video of the Mustela frenata frolicking...

References

  1. Steven R, Sheffield. Mustela frenata Wikispecies. Web. 15 March 2013.
  2. Newell, Toni Lynn. Mustela frenata long-tailed weasel "Animal Diversity Web. February 27, 2013.
  3. Muchnic, Alice Freeman Long-tailed Weasel - Mustela frenata "Nature Works Web. February 27, 2013.
  4. Sharp, Jay. The Long-Tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata) DesertUSA. Web. February 27, 2013.
  5. Newell, Toni Lynn.Mustela frenata long-tailed weasel Animal Diversity. Web. February 27, 2013.