Wild life and nature of Samos, Ikaria & Fournoi

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Mammals

Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis)

Description

The Least weasel has an elongated tubular torso with short limbs and a tapered, flat head. Its slender frame allows it to easily traverse a network of tunnels and hunt down its prey. The fur on the back is brown and coarse with creamy white patches underneath. Least weasels are polygynandrous, which means they mate multiple times with several partners. After mating the father departs and the mother raises the kits, the kits are born hairless, bind and deaf. They rely on their mother’s milk for around 32 days. The average lifespan in the wild is about 1 to 2 years with a maximum of 4 years.

Habitat

This weasel tends to avoid open spaces. It’s most common to be found in prairie grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests, open tundra, bushy taiga, rainforests and agricultural lands.

Diet
The Least weasel has a reputation for killing prey much larger than themselves and stashing remains for later. It commonly feeds on rodents but is opportunistic in nature and is not shy away from occasionally eating bird eggs, lizards, amphibians, small fish and invertebrates if the situation presents itself.

Protection status

The Least weasel is currently listed as "least concern" on the IUCN Red List and as "Appendix III'' at the Bern convention but has no entry on CITES. No special conservation needs at this moment.

Interesting facts

In Southern Greece the weasel is associated with the destruction of clothing (especially wedding dresses). The Greek word for weasel is νυφίτσα, which translates to "little bride." According to legend the weasel was a bride transformed, the weasel would destroy soon-to-be human brides dresses out of jealousy.

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