Mountain weasel

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Mountain weasel
Mountain Weasel (Mustela altaica).jpg
In Hemis National Park, India
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Mustela
Species:
M. altaica
Binomial name
Mustela altaica
Pallas, 1811

The mountain weasel (Mustela altaica), is a type of weasel. It is also called the pale weasel, Altai weasel or solongoi.[2]

Description[change | change source]

Males are about 12.5–17 in (320–630 mm) long. Males can weigh 8–12 oz (230–340 g). Females are a little bit smaller. They are 12–15 in (309–377 mm). Females weigh about 4–8 oz (110–230 g). The summer fur is gray to gray-brown fur with some light yellow. The winter fur is more of a dark yellow with some brown. In both seasons, the underbelly is pale yellow to creamy white.[3]

Distribution and Habitat[change | change source]

This weasel lives in high-altitude environments, and also on rocky tundra and grassy woodlands. This weasel rests in rock crevices, tree trunks, and abandoned burrows of other animals or the animals it previously hunted. The home range size of this animal is currently unknown.

Geographical distribution for this species lies in parts of Asia from Kazakhstan, Tibet, and the Himalayas to Mongolia, northeastern China, southern Siberia, Korea, and also some parts of Russia. The most common area for this species, however, is Ladakh, India.

Reproduction[change | change source]

Overall, these animals are thought to be live by themselves except when mating. The mountain weasel breeds once a year.[3] Males fight for the females. The mountain weasel usually mate in February to March, and the young are usually born in May. The gestation period is 30–49 days. The mountain weasel gives birth to one to eight young ones. The young ones are blind, and their fur is not well developed. Lactation lasts about two months. After weaning, the young become independent but they still live with their brothers and sisters until fall. Young are able to breed in the next season when they are just under a year old.[3]

Behavior[change | change source]

The mountain weasel is able to climb, run, and swim.[3] Their long bodies and short legs allow them to be very agile. Mountain weasels are generally nocturnal, but may hunt during the day. Even though they live by themselves, they communicate with each other visually and sound. This animal has very good eye sight. They also communicate by sound to warn off predators, to protect their territories, and when mating. When scared, they make a loud chirring sound and excrete a very smelly odor.[4]

Feeding[change | change source]

Mountain weasels are carnivores. They mainly feed on pikas and voles. They have an important ecological role in controlling the population of the voles. Muskrats, rabbits, ground squirrels, small birds, lizards, frogs, fish, and insects are also eaten.[2]

Threats[change | change source]

Some of the threats that makes the weasel to be near-threatened include habitat change, mainly caused by human development. Other dangers, such as traffic on roads, can reduce their population. Overgrazing by cattle, goats, and sheep causes the prey of the weasel to decrease because their hiding spots and food are reduced.[5]

Conservation status[change | change source]

The conservation status, according to the IUCN, is "near threatened" because it is considered to be in a significant decline. It requires monitoring mainly because of habitat and resource loss.

References[change | change source]

  1. Abramov, A.; Wozencraft, C. & Ying-xiang, W. (2008). "Mustela altaica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2009.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of near threatened
  2. 2.0 2.1 Allen, Glover M. (1938). The mammals of China and Mongolia / by Glover M. Allen. New York :: American Museum of Natural History,.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 King, Carolyn M.; Powell, Roger A. (2007-03-29). The Natural History of Weasels and Stoats. Oxford University Press. pp. 137–160. ISBN 978-0-19-532271-2.
  4. Kemp, T. S. (2017-09-28). Mammals: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. pp. 60–64. ISBN 978-0-19-876694-0.
  5. Harris, Richard B.; Loggers, Chris O. (2004). "Status of Tibetan plateau mammals in Yeniugou, China". Wildlife Biology. 10 (1): 91–99. doi:10.2981/wlb.2004.013. ISSN 0909-6396.