Weasels are mustelids. That means they belong to the same animal family as stoats and ferrets.
Weasels are the smallest of the mustelid family. They have red/brown coats with white fur on their belly and short tails. Adult weasels are about 20cm to 25cm long.
Weasels have a long, thin body with short legs. They are hunters and are small enough to follow a mouse into its tunnel. Mice are their favourite food but they also hunt birds, eggs, insects and lizards when they can’t find mice. They can kill an animal as big as a rabbit and carry it back to their den.
They eat New Zealand’s native lizards and wētā. Studies of the weasel’s diet show that weasels probably eat lizards more often than stoats do. Luckily weasels aren’t as common in New Zealand as stoats are.
Female weasels are much smaller than males. A female weasel can weigh up to 80g, but a male weighs up to 150g – so males are almost twice as big as females.
Female weasels give birth to 4-6 young. Baby weasels are deaf and blind and do not have fur when they are born. They grow very quickly and are good hunters by the time they are 8 weeks old.
Weasels like to live in gardens, farmland and scrub – probably because these are places where mice live. Weasels are not as common in New Zealand as their cousins, stoats and ferrets. There are no weasels on Stewart Island.
- Liberation of stoats and weasels – a look back in time
- Weasels studied during Maruia masting event
- Not just mouse-munchers – the diet of weasels revealed