Weasel - Mustela nivalis


    Britain's smallest native carnivore, the weasel has a long slender body, and a short tail. The fur is ginger to a rich chocolate-russet brown in colour, and the underparts are creamy-white. The narrow head is supported on a long neck, and the legs are short. The large eyes are black, and the ears are rounded.

    Identification difficulty

    Found in a range of habitats where there is good cover and plentiful prey, including woodland, grassland, sand dunes, mountains, urban areas, marshes and moors.

    When to see it

    All year round - they do not hibernate.

    Life History

    Weasels are active at any time of day or night, and intersperse periods of activity with a rest period. They feed mainly on small rodents, rabbits, birds and eggs, killing prey with a bite to the neck. They often take over the nests of their prey, lining their dens with fur from prey during cold weather. A number of dens will be used within the home range. Males and females occupy separate territories, and defend these against members of the opposite sex. During Spring, males move around in search of a mate. The male and female often fight prior to copulation, and the male grabs the female by the neck before he mates. A single litter of between 4 and 6 naked, blind and deaf kits is produced each year; the kits are weaned after 3 to 4 weeks and begin to hunt well by 8 weeks of age, often accompanying their mother to hunt in 'gangs'. By 9 to 12 weeks after birth the family group starts to split up.

    UK Status

    Widespread throughout mainland Britain, and on large islands around the UK, but absent from Ireland.

    VC55 Status

    Fairly common in Leicestershire and Rutland.

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    Leicestershire & Rutland Map

    MAP KEY:

    Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
    Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

    UK Map