The Patagonian weasel ranges from the southern and western parts of Argentina into Chile. It is most commonly found in the pampas - areas of tall grass and few trees in the colder, dryer regions. This weasel has a short, bushy tail and legs that are short even for a mustelid. This accentuates the appearance of the long, slender body.
Most of the animals of the pampas live in burrows or at least depressions in the ground. Patagonian weasels are known to enter burrows to get at their prey, which comprise insects and small burrowing mammals such as rodents and insectivores. The weasel's small ears and short legs are designed to help it move easily through narrow burrows.
The Patagonian weasel's coat comes in a range of colours, from white to brown and black. A white or yellow band runs along the back.
Patagonian weasels defend territories. A male weasel will occupy an area that covers the territories of several females. When a female is ready to mate with the male in the area, she produces a signaling odour to attract him.
Distribution: Argentina and Chile.
Habitat: Pampas and desert. Food: Small burrowing animals.
Size: 30 - 35 cm (12 - 14 in); 225 g (8 oz).
Maturity: 1 year.
Life span: Unknown.
Size: 32 cm (12.5 in); weight unknown.
This is another poorly understood species. It has been found in Peru, east of the Andes, and in Brazil it probably ranges across most of the Amazon lowlands. With continued destruction of Amazon rainforests, the tropical weasel is now classed as endangered. The coat is red-brown, becoming lighter on the underside. Like the Colombian weasel, this species has naked feet. Zoologists initially classified the tropical and Colombian weasels in their own genus. Now, however, all weasels are grouped together.
Size: 22 cm (8.5 in); 140 g (5 oz).
Living in the highlands of Colombia, this is one of only three weasels native to South America. Little is known about the Colombian weasel because only a few specimens have ever been handled, and even fewer observed in the wild. The coat is dark brown or black on top, with a reddish-tan underside. The webbed feet have naked soles, suggesting that the weasel spends a lot of time foraging in mountain waterways.
Size: 25 - 39 cm (9.75 - 15.25 in); 650 - 800 g (1.5 - 1.75 lb).
This species, also known as the Siberian weasel, ranges from the European region of Russia to Korea and Japan. It has a dark brown coat that becomes paler during winter, especially in the north of its range. It has a dark "mask" across the eyes.
African Striped Weasel
The African striped weasel is a skilled burrower. It can dig a tunnel with great speed and spends most of its time underground. When it does emerge to hunt, it does so at night. This behaviour protects it from large birds of prey.
The weasel locates prey by smell and kills or disables it with a bite to the back of the head. Struggling prey are subdued with powerful kicks. The weasel returns to its burrow to feed, taking the meal down to a rounded chamber underground. Food is often stored in this chamber, including injured victims, which are left to die. African striped weasels prey mainly on rodents, and may eat three or four each night.
Even for a mustelid, this species of weasel has very short legs in comparison to its body. The weasel's stripes mean that this species is often confused with the zorilla, an African polecat.
Most African striped weasels live alone, although small family groups sometimes share a burrow. Courtship between male and female involves the pair growling at each other, while they take it in turns to drag each other around by the scruff of the neck - a practice that mimics the way prey is carried.
Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa.
Habitat: Grasslands, marshes, forest edges.
Food: Birds, snakes, small rodents and insects.
Size: 25 - 36 cm (9.75 - 14.25 in); 230 - 380 g (8 - 13.5 oz).
Maturity: 20 months.
Breeding: Up to 3 pups born from September to April.
Life span: Unknown.