Winter Garden Guest, Cloaked in White
Mustela erminea, Commonly Known as an Ermine, Short-Tailed Weasel or Stoat
Meet the beautiful, white-cloaked ermine (Mustela erminea), also commonly known as the stoat or short-tailed weasel. This curious, swift-moving mammal —closely related to ferrets, weasels, otters, wolverines and badgers— is native to the woodlands, mountainous regions, wetlands and moors of North America, Europe, Asia and the Arctic Circle. Although considered a carnivore —with a diet consisting mainly of mice, birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, rabbits and other small rodents— I have observed the ermine eating both nuts and berries in my garden. In fact, the little fella pictured above has become a regular guest at the bird feeder. The short-tailed weasel changes coats from brown to white, as suits the season, and is often called a stoat in summer (brown & white coat with black-tipped tail) and an ermine in winter (white coat with black-tipped tail).
Despite its tiny size (10-14″ long & 6-16 oz) the ermine is a fierce hunter; capturing larger prey, such as squirrel and rabbit, with sharp teeth and claws. Short-tailed weasels are solitary creatures —females raise litters solo— with an average lifespan of 4-6 years in the wild. Although its changing coat makes for a fine seasonal camouflage, the ermine is often a victim of predators; including hawks, owls, fox, coyote, dogs and both wild and domestic cats.
This post was originally published on The Gardener’s Eden in February of 2013
Photography â“’ Michaela Harlow. All photographs, artwork, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of Michaela Medina Harlow and/or The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you!
Do you enjoy The Gardenerâ€™s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!
4 Replies to “Winter Garden Guest, Cloaked in White”
What a beautiful visitor! How cool! I wish I had visitors like that :)
Hey M! Do you still have snow down there? We did have a good pile, but there are only shards left (now that it’s finally gone below freezing again):
Must’ve missed this post the first time around, but gee he’s a cute little fella! (Sure wish we had a few of him around here… Great photos, as always; )
Hi Deb, Snow/ice actually …Sort of glacial looking terrain. It’s challenging to walk upon it, actually! Happy Solstice, friend!! xx M
Thank you, Malia. It’s a joy to spot the ermine as they race across the snow!
Comments are closed.