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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 ?
Weasels: Members of the weasel family leave tracks with five clawed toes both on the front and rear.
The pine marten - a member of the weasel family - is more common in Aberdeenshire now and it is thought they are increasingly predating upon greys.
A ferret is a small carnivorous mammal belonging to the weasel family.
Endangered pine martens, part of the weasel family, are increasingly being seen in woods around the region.
The pine marten (Martes martes)is a member of the weasel family, native to Northern Europe.
The American mink is an aquatic member of the weasel family and can grow up to 60cm long.
This particular fisher had become a part of the Game Commission's ongoing research project seeking to learn more about this member of the weasel family.
A member of the weasel family, their population varies greatly with a scarcity of them in some years and seeming over-abundance in others.
The polecat, a member of the weasel family, is the wild ancestor of the ferret.