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All Things Weasel.
Information and pictures on Weasels.
Educational, Zoological, and Classification info.

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Weasels are mammals in the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. Originally, the name "weasel" was applied to one species of the genus, the European form of the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis). Early literary references to weasels, for example their common appearances in fables, refer to this species rather than to the genus as a whole, reflecting what is still the common usage in the United Kingdom. In technical discourse, however, as in American usage, the term "weasel" can refer to any member of the genus, or to the genus as a whole. Of the 16 extant species currently classified in the genus Mustela, ten have "weasel" in their common name. Among those that do not are the stoat or ermine, the two species of mink, and the polecats or ferrets.

WeaselsWeasels vary in length from fifteen to thirty-five centimeters (six to fourteen inches), and usually have a light brown upper coat, white belly and black fur at the tip of the tail; in many species, populations living at high latitudes molt to a white coat with black fur at the tip of the tail in winter. They have long slender bodies, which enable them to follow their prey into burrows. Their tails are typically almost as long as the rest of their bodies. As is typical of small carnivores, weasels have a reputation for cleverness and guile. They also have tails that can be any where from 22-33 cm long and they use these to defend the food they get and to claim territory from other weasels.

Weasels feed on small mammals, and in former times were considered vermin since some species took poultry from farms, or rabbits from commercial warrens. Certain species of weasel and ferrets, have been reported to perform the mesmerizing weasel war dance, after fighting other creatures, or acquiring food from competing creatures. In folklore at least, this dance is particularly associated with the stoat.
Collective nouns for a group of weasels include boogle, gang, pack, and confusion.
Weasels are found all across the world except for Australia and neighboring islands.

Species
The following information is according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, and IUCN 2006 for the extinct Mutela macrodon.

Species Species Authority Common Names Geographic Division
Europe & Northern Asia division excludes China.
Mustela africana Desmarest, 1818 Tropical weasel South America
Mustela altaica Pallas, 1811 Mountain weasel Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela erminea Linnaeus, 1758 Stoat
Ermine
Australia (non-native)
Europe & Northern Asia (non-native)
North America
Southern Asia (non-native)
Mustela eversmannii Lesson, 1827 Steppe polecat Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela felipei Izor and de la Torre, 1978 Colombian weasel South America
Mustela frenata Lichtenstein, 1831 Long-tailed weasel Middle America
North America
South America
Mustela kathiah Hodgson, 1835 Yellow-bellied weasel Southern Asia
Mustela lutreola (Linnaeus, 1761) European mink Europe & Northern Asia
Mustela lutreolina Robinson and Thomas, 1917 Indonesian mountain weasel Southern Asia
Mustela macrodon Prentis, 1903 Sea mink North America
Mustela nigripes (Audubon and Bachman, 1851) Black-footed ferret North America
Mustela nivalis Linnaeus, 1766 Least weasel Europe & Northern Asia (non-native)
North America
Southern Asia (non-native)
Mustela nudipes Desmarest, 1822 Malayan weasel Southern Asia
Mustela putorius Linnaeus, 1758 European Polecat Europe & Northern Asia
Mustela sibirica Pallas, 1773 Siberian weasel Europe & Northern Asia
Southern Asia
Mustela strigidorsa Gray, 1855 Black-striped weasel Southern Asia
Mustela vison Schreber, 1777 American mink
Mink
Europe & Northern Asia (non-native)
North America

Popular culture references Weasels
In English-language popular culture in particular, the term "weasel" is associated with devious characters. Many of these references tend to treat weasels as a species rather than a genus; for example, in Brian Jacques' Redwall series, weasels are one of many villainous races, along with rats and ferrets - although ferrets, biologically speaking, are a species of weasel. In the Dilbert cartoons, some of the most devious characters are portrayed as weasels or with weasel-like features. In reference to the weasel's reputation for skullduggery, the phrase "weasel words" means insincere or devious speech. Elements of the American media described the declaration by France, Germany, and Belgium against the 2003 invasion of Iraq as "The Axis Of Weasel", a pun on the "Axis of Evil". A popular cynical office poster states, "Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines," meaning that office workers who stay low and act in their own self-interest may be less likely to rise in the organization but are also less likely to be destroyed as a result of office politics.

British popular-culture references to weasels are generally specifically to the Least Weasel. For example, Alan Lloyd's novel Kine, about a fictional war in the English countryside between weasels and the invasive species mink, depicts the latter as sadistic, voracious invaders, giants in comparison to the weasels; in American usage, both species would be kinds of weasel. Similarly, in Kenneth Grahame's popular story The Wind in the Willows the villains are the weasels and the stoats, again two species of weasel in American usage. Here everyday usage reflects the original European use of the word weasel for a single species.

A kamaitachi is, according to Japanese myth, a malevolent, weasel-like wind spirit, wielding a sharp sickle. They are nearly always depicted in groups of three individuals, and the three act together in their attacks; the first one hits the victim so that he/she falls to the ground, the second slashes with the sickle, and the third partially heals the wound. Also in Japanese mythology, weasels represent bad luck and death.

A cartoon shown on Cartoon Network is entitled I Am Weasel, whose main character is a weasel.

A notable and infamous character of the American animated series Animaniacs is Minerva Mink, a beautiful, vain yet shallow mink female who is particularly chased after for her fur. Although intended to be a major character of the series, the depiction of her sexuality on children's television caused a censor uproar, forcing the writers to deemphasize her character. Although Minerva starred in two cartoons, she remained a semi-prominent member of the show's cast.

Music parodist Weird Al Yankovic wrote a song entitled Weasel Stomping Day, which was later made into a short video shown in an episode of Robot Chicken. It depicts weasels being stomped to death.

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Mustelinae
Genus: Mustela Linnaeus, 1758

Species

Mustela africana
Mustela altaica
Mustela erminea
Mustela eversmannii
Mustela felipei
Mustela frenata
Mustela kathiah
Mustela lutreola
Mustela lutreolina
Mustela macrodon
Mustela nigripes
Mustela nivalis
Mustela nudipes
Mustela putorius
Mustela sibirica
Mustela strigidorsa
Mustela vison

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