Wild Guide

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From Missouri Conservationist: January 2019

Long-Tailed Weasel | Mustela frenata


Rare, Species of Conservation Concern


  • Males total length: 13½–17½ inches, weight: 6–9½ ounces
  • Females total length: 11½–15½ inches, weight: 2½–4½ ounces Distribution Statewide, mostly in south-central and southwestern portions

Long-tailed weasels are small but mighty and could even be described as quick-change agents. In summer, adults are usually dark brown with yellowish white fur underneath, a white chin, and a black-tipped tail. By the winter, their coat is much paler. In fact, in northern Missouri sometimes their coat turns all white, except for the black-tipped tail. Weasels live in a variety of habitats but prefer woodlands, brushy fencerows and thickets along water.

  • Life Cycle Long-tailed weasels mate in July or August, but with an average gestation period of 279 days, the young are not born until the following April or May. A typical litter is four to eight young that are weaned at 5 weeks.
  • Foods Despite their size, longtailed weasels are voracious predators. They eat live animals almost exclusively. Some of their favorites include mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, shrews, moles, and rabbits, and occasionally small birds, bird eggs, reptiles, amphibians, earthworms, and some insects.
  • Ecosystem Connections Weasels help control rodent populations — especially mice and rats — and, in turn, serve as prey for horned owls, hawks, foxes, and bobcats.

Did You Know?

Once harvested for their fur, long-tailed weasels are no longer legal to trap in the Show-Me State. In addition, farmers used to kill weasels for destroying their chickens. But the species as a whole causes little economic loss to the poultry industry.

Also In This Issue

Serving Nature and You: Fiscal Year July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler