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a family of small or medium-sized predatory mammals. The fur is thick and fluffy, with a fine, soft undercoat. These animals generally have an elongated and flexible body and a bushy tail. The claws are not retractile, and in many species the digits are webbed. Special anal glands release a fetid secretion. Mustelids are distributed throughout the world except for Australia, the antarctic, Madagascar, Iceland, and some small islands. There are five subfamilies, with 28 or 30 genera. Sixteen species, making up eight genera, are found in the USSR.

Short-tailed, or snow, weasels (Mustela nivalis), polecats, and martens—all of the subfamily Mustelinae—are active predators. Feeding primarily on mammals and birds, they have molars with sharp cutting ridges. These species are terrestrial, and some are good tree-climbers. Badgers of the subfamily Melinae have digits with strong claws adapted for digging burrows. Feeding on animal and vegetable food, they have molars with broad, flat crowns that serve for grinding food. The common otter and the sea otter, which are both of the subfamily Lutrinae, are aquatic mammals, with well-developed swimming webs. These otters feed on fish, mollusks, and other aquatic animals.

Almost all mustelids are commercially valued for their fur (especially sable and sea otter).


Ognev, S. I. Zveri SSSR i prilezhashchikh stran. (Zveri Vostochnoi Evropy i severnoi Azii), vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Mlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 2, part 1. Edited by V. G. Geptner and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1967.
References in periodicals archive ?
The polecat, a member of the weasel family, is the wild ancestor of the ferret.
The small patch of white fur on the mink's chin distinguishes it from other members of the weasel family.
Plus, skunks are members of the weasel family, a particularly vile species that includes otters, ferrets, badgers, stoats and Donald Trump.
Correction (published May 25, 2010): A ferret is a small carnivorous mammal belonging to the weasel family.
These lithe members of the weasel family are often considered cute and cuddly, but Terry can vouch for their wild ferocity after an otter attacked him and bit off two of his fingers.
Another popular theory, which makes perfect sense in the case of most members of the weasel family, is that it guards against weak, subdominant males mating.
But Sgt Bell thinks the killing method used suggests it was not a big cat but a wolverine, the largest creature of the weasel family.
The animal, part of the weasel family, was once common in the UK, but persecution and a loss of habitat led to its decline.
Members of the weasel family, mink live throughout New York State, and are typically found in wetland habitats, including the edges of ponds or lakes.
The fisher, by the way, is among the largest members of the weasel family.
The wolverine is the largest land dwelling member of the weasel family.
Sea otters, a member of the weasel family, don't have a thick layer of blubber to insulate them from the cold as do their fellow marine mammals, seals and sea lions.