Stoat, Short-tailed weasel, Bonaparte weasel, Eurasian ermine, Beringian ermine
Ermine is the common name given to this small northern weasel with a short, black-tipped tail, long body, and short legs. Its fur is dark brown in summer but white in snowy, winter conditions. The white fur is called "ermine," and even where the animal is called a "stoat," when it has its winter coat it may be known as ermine, or being "in ermine." Commercially, this animal has been of importance for the fur trade, particularly its valuable winter coat of white. This highly prized fur has been used to adorn royal robes in Europe and in art was used as a symbol of virginity or purity.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight (that is, the periods of dawn and dusk). This is distinguished from diurnal...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct ...
Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Polygynandry is a mating system in which both males and females have multiple mating partners during a breeding season.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Ermine are found across the northern subarctic, Arctic, and temperate regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Across the New World, they are distributed from west to east in a wide belt running from the Arctic Ocean and nearby islands in the Canadian Archipelago south to the northern United States. They are not found on the Great Plains. These animals prefer riparian woodlands, shrubby fencerows, marshes, alpine meadows, and open areas near forests or shrub borders.
This species is largely crepuscular or nocturnal but is sometimes active during the day. Ermine are good climbers and they use trees when escaping predators, resting, and searching for food. They are largely solitary. They are territorial and intolerant of other ermine in their range, particularly those of the same gender. Within their range, they typically use several dens, often those of their prey species. They usually travel alone, except when mating mothers with their older offspring. Adult males will dominate females and young. The females generally remain in the area of their birth throughout their lives. The males disperse and secure a large territory that usually encompasses or overlaps females' territories. This species maintains exclusive boundaries that they patrol and mark with scent. They have keen senses of sight, hearing, smell, and touch that help to locate prey.
Ermine are carnivores and prey on small, warm-blooded vertebrates, particularly mammals the size of rabbits or smaller. When mammals are scarce, they eat birds, eggs, fish, frogs, and insects.
Ermine are polygynandrous (promiscuous), with both males and females mating with multiple partners. They mate from late spring to early in the summer. Females bear 1 litter only per year. After gestation of around 280 days, young are born during April or May. Gestation includes a period of developmental delay of 8 to 9 months. Litter sizes range from 3 to 18 and average 4 to 9. Young grow quickly and can hunt with their mothers when 8 weeks old. Weaning takes place at around 10 weeks. Females reach adult size by about 6 weeks after birth and are able to mate at 60 to 70 days of age, often before being weaned. Males gain adult size during their second summer.
Potential threats include increasing access and unrestricted trapping by people, habitat fragmentation and loss, interactions with introduced species, as well as changes in prey availability. Generally, mustelids are very vulnerable to trapping, not only to traps that are set specifically for them. Ermine may be less threatened than other furbearers by habitat change from fire disturbances or timber harvest due to the preference for communities with early-successional stages and their aversion to dense forest. Clear-cut logging, however, may be a threat in Alaska, particularly in the unproductive, mid-successional regrowth forest areas which seem to be favored habitat. Another concern is the loss of genetic integrity and the transmission of pathogens (like canine distemper) and parasites from native or introduced stocks of other carnivores.
Ermine is an abundant species and it has a wide circumpolar distribution, but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.
Ermine are important predators of small mammal communities within the ecosystems where they live.