Weasels are small carnivorous animals that are widespread in Europe. They are also found in some parts of the Mediterranean regions as well as North Africa. In recent years, they have been introduced to New Zealand. In this article we are going to look at weasels in the wild: what do weasels eat, how and where do they live?
Well, the one unique character of weasels is that they are quite solitary. They do not need to live in groups. They do just fine on their own until it’s breeding time. Both female and male weasels are independent, especially when it comes to hunting.
In most cases, weasels are nocturnal. They hunt at night rather than daytime. The good things about this are that they will need to feed at least once a day. Without much hesitation, I am going to outline the weasel’s diet.
What do weasels eat?
Even though weasels are small in size, they are obligate carnivores. They hunt smaller mammals for food. These animals include mice, shrews, voles, rabbits and rodents. However, if they do not seem to get lucky, weasels will also climb trees and eat birds and their eggs.
They can also eat amphibians such as frogs. Sometimes they will eat fish. They will inhabit a large area of grasslands, lowland forests or general fields in search of food. Weasels will move out when the resources get scarce.
As I mentioned above, weasels prefer hunting at night. They do not live or depend on each other. The female weasel will prefer hunting underground prey. On the other hand, male weasels will go for larger prey such as rabbits. They will hunt on the ground more than female counterparts.
Once a weasel spots prey at a distance, the chasing begins. Weasels are fast, despite having short legs. They will chase their prey and bite in the back of their heads or neck. The weasel will continue biting until the prey is dead and only then will they feed.
Weasels may not need to hunt twice a day as they will feed once. If there are leftovers, weasels will hide them in his burrow to eat later should he fail to get a nice catch.
The process of hunting will involve going through tunnels and burrows looking for prey. As I have indicated, the male will look for prey on the ground. These small animals can travel for more than 8 miles in one night looking for a catch.
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Where do weasels live?
Earlier on, I described the location that you are most likely to find weasels. Now we are going to take a close look at the weasel’s natural habitat. Generally, they prefer living anywhere they can access food. This means that they may live in grasslands, forests, sand dunes and even in urban areas.
They will create nests on the ground or live in abandoned burrows. In most cases, they inherit the burrows upon killing their prey. Understand that they do not dig their own burrows. Alternatively, a weasel may choose to live in treebanks.
They will mark territories to keep other weasels away. This can be a large piece of grasslands, close to 8 hectares. They will live in different burrows until they ran out of resources. Only then will they move to other areas where they can find food.
They will also patrol their territory from time to time. This is to safeguard it and ensure that they are safe.
Weasel behavior in the wild
Weasels are an interesting breed of creatures. First of all, weasels do not live with each other. They are completely independent, and will only associate with each other during mating. This happens in April and also in August.
Once the mating is done, the male will go on with his life so as the female. The female will also proceed and give birth to her litter, composed of 4-6 kits. This will happen twice a year. During the mating season, the male weasels may have to travel out of their territories. They are in search of a mate before they can move to their next territories.
Female weasels will stay in their territories until they run out of food. This could last about one year. Understand that weasels are also excellent climbers and will hunt birds and bird eggs.
Weasels are also witty and intelligent. During hunting, they will chase in a zigzag pattern. This is to avoid any suspicion due to his scent. He will run past his prey and attack from the front, just as I have described above.
In the wild, weasels will enjoy a lifespan of about 3 years. In conservation, they may live up to 10 years! The newborns will depend on their mother for food until they are 5-8 weeks. At this age, they are well developed and ready to fetch for themselves.
Fun fact about weasels
Weasels can dance – Weasels will dance a little bit upon a successful kill. It is called the weasel war dance and scientists do not have a conclusive reason why they do so. However, some weasels will dance before they get to kill their prey. This could be to confuse and slow down their prey. In some instances, you may think that the weasel is hypnotizing its prey.
Weasels are small animals but they have an interesting personality. Weasels hunt and eat smaller mammals and sometimes amphibians. They are strictly carnivorous and will go for prey suck as mice, which consist of about 80% of their diet, rats, birds, rabbits, and insects.
As I have mentioned above, weasels are self-sufficient. They will not go out hunting together. In fact, they will set boundaries to keep others from accessing their territories. The female is much smaller in body size, as compared to male weasels.
Male weasels will, therefore, need almost twice prey as a female one. This is why a male weasel is likely to chase larger prey, at least the size of a rabbit. They will only need to eat once in a day and then spend the rest of the night wandering and keeping an eye on their territory.