Common Name: Ermine
Species: Mustela erminea
photo M. Noonan
Ermine belong to the weasel
family, Mustelidae, which they share with minks, otters,
badgers, wolverines, and otters, in the Mammalian Order
Carnivora. Its scientific name is Mustela erminea, which
means "weasel ermine".
The ermine has a long, slender
body and short legs. This animalís coat coloration
changes throughout the year. There are two color phases.
During the winter months, the ermine is completely
white, with the exception of a black tip of fur on its
tail. The ermineís coat color of the summer is generally
a rich brown dorsally, and yellow ventrally. The black
tipped tail fur is still present. The ermine is 7-14
inches long and weighs. Males are usually twice as large
as females. Ermines weigh approximately one to five
The ermineís range includes
temperate Eurasia and North America. This species
inhabits a variety of habitats across central North
America as well, with the exception of the Great Plains.
Meadows bordering forests, marshes and riparian
woodlands are preferred by this species. Burrows are
lined with vegetation and are often old rodent burrows.
Ermines eat a variety of other
animals. Rabbits and smaller mammals are their preferred
prey. However, ermines will occasionally eat birds,
eggs, insects, amphibians and small reptiles.
Ermines are solitary, associating
only during mating season. Breeding takes place in late
spring or early summer. Delayed implantation prevents
the young from developing until 8-9 months later. Once
implantation occurs, the gestation period is about 9
months. A female gives birth to one litter of 4-9
offspring. They are born altricial. This means the baby
ermines are born relatively undeveloped, requiring large
amounts of parental care. The young are cared for
extensively, growing very fast. They are able to hunt
alongside their mother by 8 weeks of age. Full size is
not reached until 6 weeks, but sexual maturity is
achieved at 60-70 days old. Ermine may live to 7 years
of age, but usually do not live past 2 years in the
Ermines are not endangered. Some
areas allow humans to trap ermine. However, as with all
species, monitoring destructive human interactions with
the environment, such as pollution and habitat
destruction, are beneficial to this species.