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Is a Weasel a Rodent? (No, it’s closer to a Bear!)

Is a Weasel a Rodent

No, a weasel is not a rodent, although it sure looks like one. A weasel’s order is Carnivora, while a rodent’s order is Rodentia.

Both rodents and weasels, however, are mammals. Weasels belong to the family Mustelidae. Weasels, minks, stoats, and ferrets belong to the same genus, but they are not rodents.

What are Rodents Related to?

Long-tailed Weasel

Weasels are closely related to several other four-legged animals from North America and Europe including ferrets and badgers, all of which also belong to the family Mustelidae.

Examples include:

  • Badgers
  • Otters
  • Martens
  • Polecats
  • Ferrets

Stepping back to distant cousins, weasels are also considered similar to:

  • Red Pandas
  • Skunks
  • Raccoons

Stepping back to the level of Carnivora, we can see that weasels are even more closely related to the large carnivores than rodents!

For example, according to the linnean taxonomy, they’re more biologically similar to:

  • Bears
  • Dogs
  • Wolves
  • Bandicoots

One thing to keep in mind is that the linnean taxonomy isn’t as clear-cut as we generally think. Nevertheless, it does show biological similarities between creatures, and demonstrates that weasels are not very closely related to rodents at all.

Are A Ferret And A Weasel The Same Thing?

A ferret in its nest

No, a ferret and a weasel are not the same animals. They belong to the same order Mustelidae. Both of them have the same body shape, and it is why people mistake them for each other all the time.

A ferret is a type of weasel, in the same way that a caiman is a type of alligator. Weasels are animals that pretty much adapt to many types of environments. They can even live in cold places like Alaska. Ferrets, however, prefer to live in grasslands.

Ferrets are usually dark brown or black, while weasels are lighter. Sometimes, a ferret may have cream markings on their body. Weasels have a white underbelly.

What Are The Types Of Weasels?

Least Weasel

There are 16 different species of weasels. Below is a complete list and their common names.

  1. Mustela altaica Pallas – Mountain weasel
  2. Mustela erminea Linnaeus – Stoat, Beringian ermine, Eurasian ermine, or short-tailed weasel
  3. Mustela eversmanii – Steppe polecat     
  4. Mustela haidarum Preble – Haida ermine
  5. Mustela furo Linnaeus – Domestic ferret
  6. Mustela itatsiTemminck – Japanese weasel
  7. Mustela kathiah Hodgson – Yellow-bellied weasel
  8. Mustela lutreola – European mink
  9. Mustela lutreolina – Indonesian mountain weasel
  10. Mustela nigripes – Black-footed ferret
  11. Mustela nivalis – Least weasel
  12. Mustela nudipes – Malayan weasel
  13. Mustela putorius – European polecat
  14. Mustela richardsonii – American ermine
  15. Mustela sibirica Pallas – Siberian weasel
  16. Mustela strigidorsa Gray – Back-striped weasel

The stoat, or the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea Linnaeus), is the most distributed weasel in North America.

The stoat was brought to New Zealand to control the rabbit population. However, this action backfired as the weasel population endangered several native birds.

The least weasel, or Mustela nivalis, is the smallest extant carnivore. It weighs only 25 grams and is only between four and ten inches long.

Where Do Weasels Live?

Mountain Weasel

There are many species of weasels, and they are fairly distributed around the world. Below are their locations:

  • Europe
  • Northern and Southern Asia
  • Arctic North America
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan

Weasels live in many types of habitats like open fields. They also thrive well in woodlands and thickets. Some of them live on farmlands and the roadside.

Weasels like places where there are many small prey such as rodents (rats). Also, they have a preference for areas with lots of water. They also like to live in abandoned burrows and nests.

In human-populated areas, weasels will make a home close to rivers and wetlands, grasslands, and even arable land.

Weasel FAQs

How Do Weasels Hunt?

Weasels are fast. They are also fierce, and their long bodies allow them to pursue prey in many locations. Their bodies are also flexible, and this adds versatility to their movements.

Weasels have a powerful jaw and sharp teeth. These teeth and jaws can crush the skull of their prey. Even if a weasel has successfully killed prey and taken it to its burrow, the weasel will go back out to hunt again.

It seems like weasels have a compulsion to hunt. They can run after mice, and they can move quietly. One thing that might surprise people is that weasels are hoarders.

As a hoarder, the weasel will hunt, take the prey to its burrow, and then hunt again. Zoologists have even found weasel burrows that have up to 50 carcasses in their burrows. Some scientists say that the weasel is stockpiling food to prepare for a time of scarcity.

Are Weasels Endangered?

Yellow-Bellied Weasel

No, weasels are not endangered. The classification of the weasel is Least Concern according to the IUCN. There are so many of them, and they are widely distributed globally.

However, the population of weasels in the UK is one thing to look at. There is a drastic reduction in the weasel population. In the UK, the population has halved in the last 50 years. There are advocates calling for legal action to protect the weasel in the UK.

What Do Weasels Eat?

Weasels are carnivores, and as such, they are predators. They hunt small animals like rats, voles, and rabbits.

Here are some of the weasel’s menu:

  • Voles
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Rabbits
  • Frogs
  • Birds
  • Bird eggs
  • Turtles
  • Hedgehogs
  • Fish

Weasels are generally nocturnal animals. From time to time, they may hunt in the daytime. The way they hunt is by scent, and they dart in and out so fast of burrows of rodents.

Once a weasel sees an opportunity, it will pounce on its prey and crush its skull. A weasel uses its forelegs to hug the prey. The back legs are for support, kicking and scratching.

Weasels are ferocious hunters. They will chase prey, and they are so fast they can even catch up with a rabbit.

What Eats A Weasel?

In the wild, a weasel is not safe. There are many animals that eat a weasel, and below are some examples.

  • Owls
  • Eagles
  • Hawks
  • Foxes
  • Snakes

Even domestic cats and dogs hunt weasels. However, cats and dogs do not eat them. As a small animal, the weasel has no chance of fighting its prey. It is why it hunts at night.

Is A Weasel PoisonousAnd Aggressive?

No, weasels are not poisonous, and they are not aggressive. They do not want to be around humans, and they will avoid human contact.

Weasels, however, are not defenseless. They will fight back if cornered. It is why in domestic locations, weasels will fight against dogs and cats.

Weasels have sharp teeth, and they will use these teeth to hurt a threat. In domestic locations, weasels have bitten people.

Conclusion

A weasel is not a rodent. It belongs to a different group of animals that include ferrets and minks. Weasels are carnivores, and they eat rodents most of the time. Although weasels are not endangered, some of their populations are experiencing a massive decline, especially in the UK.

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