|Mustela frenata Lichtenstein|
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
13 - 17 in. (330 - 445 mm)
4 - 6 in. (100 - 150 mm)
- Hind foot:
1 1/4 - 2 in. (33 - 50 mm)
3 - 10 lbs. (85 - 280 g)
The fairly large long-tailed weasel has a long tail with
a distinct black tip. During the summer, the long-tailed
weasel is dark brown above and buff or yellowish-white
below. During the winter, the dorsal pelage is buff-brown.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The long-tailed weasel is found from southern Canada south through all of
the United States, except the Sonoran Desert, and southward to northern
Bolivia in South America.
||Dogs, cats, bears, etc.
||Otters, weasels, and mink
The long-tailed weasel is found in a wide variety of habitats including
farmland, woodlands, and swamps. Hedgerows and brushy fields often provide
good habitat. Areas near water seem to be preferred.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
This species is a fairly common resident of the park and has
been recorded at all elevations.
- Sevier Co.:
Along Little River (1,400 feet); near park headquarters
(1,500 feet); Sugarlands (1,600 feet); Lower Ramsay
Branch; near head of Noisy Creek; Newfound Gap Road
(2,900 feet; 4,000 feet); Greenbrier Cove (3,000 -3,500
feet); Greenbrier Pinnacle (4,500 feet); Mt. LeConte
(6,300 feet; 6,593 feet).
- Haywood Co.:
- Swain Co.:
Clingmans Dome Road (5,600 feet).
Breeding usually occurs in July and August with the young being born
in April. The long gestation is caused by delayed implantation of the
embryos in the uterus. A fertilized egg starts its development as it
travels down the oviduct. Reaching the uterus in the blastocyst stage,
it then becomes inactive, the metabolic rate falls, and cell division
ceases. The unimplanted blastocyst remains quiescent for a period of
ten to eleven months before implantation and normal development resumes.
Litters may consist of four to nine young. Newborn young have their
eyes closed and have only a few long, white hairs, but postnatal
development is rapid. By five weeks, the eyes and ears open, nursing
ceases, and the pelage is nearing adult summer coloration. Females reach
sexual maturity in 3 - 4 months; males at one year of age. A nest of
this species was discovered in late April in a building near LeConte
Lodge. The nest contained five or six young, each about 10 cm long and
with their eyes not yet open (Stupka, 1961).
The young are fully grown at 10 weeks. Both parents assist in bringing
food to the young and caring for them.
Wild individuals are known to have lived for three years.
- Terrestrial Ecology
These solitary animals may be active at any hour during all seasons.
They are intensely active and alert and possess well developed senses
of hearing, sight, and smell. They are extremely quick in their
movements, and they are tireless hunters.
These carnivorous animals feed primarily on mice, rats, shrews, and
moles. Their diet may also occasionally include rabbits, squirrels,
birds, snakes, lizards, insects, and earthworms. A long-tailed weasel
was observed on Mt. LeConte carrying a deermouse (Peromyscus sp.)
in its mouth in June 1944.
- Predators and Defense
Snakes, hawks, owls, and foxes are the primary predators. A 40 cm weasel
was discovered in July in the stomach of a large timber rattlesnake (
Crotalus horridus) taken near Caldwell Fork in the Cataloochee area
(Stupka, 1953; Savage, 1967).
Several weasels have been found dead along park roads.
None recorded from the park.
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Collection requires a permit which is usually
granted only for
research or educational purposes.
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Roger Barbour, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Blacksburg, Virginia: The McDonald & Woodward Publishing
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Linzey, D. W. 1998.
The Mammals of Virginia. Blacksburg, Virginia: The
McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Savage, T. 1967.
The diet of rattlesnakes and copperheads in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. Copeia 1967 (1): 226-227.
Sheffield, S. R. and H. H. Thomas. 1997.
Mustela frenata. Mammalian Species No. 570: 1-9.
American Society of Mammalogists.
Stupka, A. 1935-63.
Nature Journal, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 28 volumes
(years) each with index. (Typewritten copy in files of Great
Smoky Mountains National Park.)
Last modified: 8 May, 2002