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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The weasel family is large and includes skunks, otters, and badgers.
Its body is 33-37 in (85-95 cm) long and 14-18 in (35-45 cm) tall at the shoulder, making it the largest member of the weasel family (Mustelidae).
River otters are members of the weasel family, along with skunks.
Described by enthusiasts as "cats without the attitude" and "kittens that never grow up," domestic ferrets, members of the weasel family, are furry bundles weighing one to five pounds.
Just now beginning to attract attention are two more species said to be old-growth dependent, the Pacific fisher (Martes pennanti pacifica) and the American marten (Martes americana), Both mammals are members of the weasel family. The fisher weighs in at seven to 12 pounds; the marten is about the size of a small house cat.
Members of the weasel family and about the size of a typical cat - pine martens are the second rarest meateaters in Britain with their exact numbers unknown.
The return of the charismatic mammal, which is a member of the weasel family, could boost rural economies by providing ecotourism, and the presence of the pine marten could even help rare red squirrels by reducing numbers of invasive grey squirrels.
Fishers are large members of the weasel family that nearly disappeared from New York State in the 1930s, due mostly to habitat loss and unregulated trapping.
One last member of the weasel family that has been notable at Cape Cod is the otter.
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.
To help you and your family spot otters, The Wildlife Trust has just launched a new online guide so you can see this distinctive member of the weasel family out in the wild.
A ferret is a small carnivorous mammal belonging to the weasel family. A story on Monday's City/Region cover incorrectly referred to ferrets as rodents.