weasel


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Related to weasel: Least Weasel, Weasel family

weasel,

name for certain small, lithe, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae (weasel family). Members of this family are generally characterized by long bodies and necks, short legs, small rounded ears, and medium to long tails. All have scent glands, generally used for territorial markings but in some animals for defense. True weasels belong to the genus Mustela, with species found in Eurasia, N Africa, and the Americas. Weasels are very active and chiefly terrestrial but are able to climb trees. They prey on small animals by night, often killing more than they eat, and spend the day in dens made in holes in the ground, rock piles, or hollow stumps. Although they are notorious for destruction of poultry, the damage they do is far outweighed by their value as destroyers of rodents. Weasels are usually brown, with white underparts. Species living in snowy regions acquire white coats in winter and are then known as ermineermine,
name for a number of northern species of weasel having white coats in winter, and highly prized for their white fur. It most commonly refers to the white phase of Mustela erminea, called short-tailed weasel in North America and stoat in the Old World.
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. The most widely distributed weasel, Mustela erminea, is known in Europe as the stoat and in North America as the short-tailed weasel. It is about 16 in. (40 cm) long including the 5-in. (13-cm) tail; it has a white winter coat through much of its range and a characteristic black tail tip the year around. It ranges from the Arctic Ocean to central Asia, S Europe and the central United States. The much smaller M. nivalis, known in Europe simply as weasel, is found in Europe, N and central Asia, and N Africa. It turns white only in the extreme northern parts of its range. Among the New World weasels is the tiny least weasel, measuring only 7 or 8 in. (18–20 cm) in total length; it ranges from the N central United States to N Canada and Alaska. There are many other true weasel species, mostly in the Old World. Besides these, the genus Mustela includes the polecatpolecat,
carnivorous mammal of the weasel family. The name refers especially to the common Old World polecat, Mustela putorius, found in wooded areas of N Eurasia and N Africa.
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, ferretferret,
name for a domesticated polecat, Mustela putorius, common in the Old World. It has been used for centuries to hunt rats, mice, and rabbits. Domestic ferrets are found in many color types including albinos, brown, and black.
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, and minkmink,
semiaquatic carnivorous mammal of the genus Mustela, closely related to the weasel and highly prized for its fur. One species, Mustela vison, is found over most of North America and another, M.
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. African animals of several genera in the weasel family are called striped weasels; they are characterized by conspicuous black and white markings and, in some cases, by the use of scent for defense. Among these is a skunklike animal with a powerful odor known as the zorillazorilla,
small, carnivorous, nocturnal mammal, Ictonyx striatus, of the weasel family, found in dry regions of Africa. It is also called striped weasel and striped polecat.
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. The weasel family also includes the martenmarten,
name for carnivorous, largely arboreal mammals (genus Martes) of the weasel family, widely distributed in North America, Europe, and central Asia. Martens are larger, heavier-bodied animals than weasels, with thick fur and bushy tails.
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, fisherfisher,
name of a large North American marten, Martes pennanti. This carnivorous, largely arboreal mammal is found in hardwood forests of Canada, the extreme N United States, and mountain ranges of the W United States.
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, and wolverinewolverine
or glutton,
largest member of the weasel family, Gulo gulo, found in the northern parts of North America and Eurasia, usually in high mountains near the timberline or in tundra.
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, as well as the more distantly related skunkskunk,
name for several related New World mammals of the weasel family, characterized by their conspicuous black and white markings and use of a strong, highly offensive odor for defense.
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, badgerbadger,
name for several related members of the weasel family. Most badgers are large, nocturnal, burrowing animals, with broad, heavy bodies, long snouts, large, sharp claws, and long, grizzled fur.
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, honey badgerhoney badger
or ratel
, carnivore, Mellivora capensis, of the forest and brush country of Africa, the Middle East, and India; it is a member of the badger and skunk family.
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 (or ratel), and otterotter,
name for a number of aquatic, carnivorous mammals of the weasel family, found on all continents except Australia. The common river otters of Eurasia and the Americas are species of the genus Lutra. The North American river otter, L.
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. Weasels are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Mustelidae.

Bibliography

See B. Gilbert, The Weasel (1970); C. King, Weasels and Stoats (1989).

weasel

[′wē·zəl]
(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for at least 12 species of small, slim carnivores which belong to the family Mustelidae and which have a reddish-brown coat with whitish underparts; species in the northern regions have white fur during the winter and are called ermine.

weasel

1. any of various small predatory musteline mammals of the genus Mustela and related genera, esp M. nivalis (European weasel), having reddish-brown fur, an elongated body and neck, and short legs
2. Chiefly US a motor vehicle for use in snow, esp one with caterpillar tracks

weasel

(jargon, abuse)
(Cambridge) A naive user, one who deliberately or accidentally does things that are stupid or ill-advised. Roughly synonymous with loser.
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