~ Ermines in Alaska ~


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A Member of the Weasel Family

Ermines are among the smallest members of the Weasel family, with a body length between 15 to 30 cm for adult males. Females are smaller. They have an elongated body with relatively short legs. Their tail is roughly a third of their body length.

Ermines look very similar to Least Weasels and can easily be mistaken for their smaller cousins. Ermines have a black tipped tail and are slightly larger.

  Common Names:
  Scientific Name:
  Ermine, Short-Tailed Weasel, Stoat
  Mustela erminea
  Primary Diet:
  North America, Northern Eurasia
  Length (without tail):
  15 to 30 cm
  180 to 260 grams

Wearing a brown and white coat during the summer months, the Ermine's fur turns completely white in winter, except for the tip of the tail which remains black.

Ermine Diet

The Ermine's primary diet is composed of small mammals such as Pikas and small rodents (voles or mice). Near ponds, their diet would also include frogs, small fish and insects. If their usual preys are scarce, Ermines would also settle for small birds or eggs.

In spite of their small sizes and cute appearance, Ermines are fierce predators armed with sharp teeth. They are capable to taking down preys several times larger than themselves.

With their strength and stamina, they can chase and kill a 2 pound hare by repeatedly biting the back of the victim's neck.

Ermines store food in caches whenever there are left overs from the kill.

Ermine's Habitat

Ermines can be found in Northern Eurasia and the Northern regions of North America. In Alaska, they can be found near rivers, marshes and mountain slopes.

Being very agile, they can easily climb trees and even swim.

They establish dens underground or inside hollow tree trunks, out of sight from predators like Cayotes, Foxes and Birds of Prey.

Ermine Reproduction

For Ermines, mating occurs during the period from May to July and results in a single litter of 5 to 10 offsprings approximately 10 months later. In fact, the relatively long Ermine gestation period includes 9 months of delayed implantation.

Delayed implantation is also known as "Embryonic Diapause" when the embryo remains dormant and is not implanted in the uterus.

Young Ermines

These young Ermines are very playful.

Ermines out of their Den

An Ermine is venturing outside of its den and is carefully exploring its surroundings.

A few minutes later, another Ermine also comes out of the den...

Ermines in Late Evening

As the sun begins to set on the horizon, a group of Ermines come out of the ground and make their appearances, vocalizing trills and screeches.


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