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Weasels In Florida – The ONLY Species Found There!

According to the American Society of Mammalogists, there are 16 weasel species in the world – 10 of them have the word “weasel” in their name. The three weasel species found in North America are the long-tailed weasel, short-tailed weasel (ermine), and least weasel.

The only species of weasel in Florida is the long-tailed weasel.

Primarily nocturnal, because of their secretive nature and miniature size, they might be hard to spot, even in the areas where their numbers are the highest. 

Here are their photos, fun facts, and a short guide on how to recognize and differentiate them from other common animals found in Florida’s wild.

Weasel Species In Florida

1. Long-tailed Weasel

Long-tailed Weasel
Image Credit: Canva.

Long-tailed weasels are the only weasel species found in Florida

When it comes to their exact range in the state, there is limited information. These animals have typically been located in regions with extensive stretches of untouched woodland environment. 

Examples of such places include Ocala National Forest, Blackwater River State Forest, Osceola Wildlife Management Area, and the Apalachicola National Forest.

Also known as bridled weasels, masked ermines, or big stoats, they are the most widespread of any North American mustelid (carnivorous mammals like weasels, otters, fetters, minks, etc.).

Identify long-tailed weasels by their long and slender bodies, long necks, flattened heads, short legs, short and rounded ears, prominent whiskers, and black eyes. They also have dense brown fur that is white-yellow below – their brown tails have black tips and measure almost half the total body size. 

During winter, in northern parts of the USA, long-tailed weasels can turn white, occasionally with yellow tints – their tails keep the black tips.

Long-tailed weasel in the snow
Image Credit: Pixabay.
  • Scientific Name: Neogale frenata
  • Length: 11-22 in
  • Weight: 3-9 oz
  • Tail Length: 3-6 in

Long-tailed weasels are common in different habitats, including woodlands, thickets, and brushy fencerows close to the water.

These large weasels are carnivores and will take what they can get – they feed on squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, birds, reptiles, insects, fish, and especially small rodents like mice and voles. 

They breed from July to August and have one litter per year with 1-12 young. The newborns are born naked, blind, 0.1 oz heavy (similar to a size of a hummingbird), and open their eyes at around 5 weeks of age. 

Fun Fact: Long-tailed weasels can delay the implantation of the embryo after fertilization and can have a pregnancy that lasts between 205 and 337 days!

They are active during the day and the night – their black eyes glow bright emerald green when caught in a spotlight at night. 

Predators of long-tailed weasels include coyotes, foxes, wolves, wildcats, northern goshawks, and barred and great-horned owls.

Read More: Examples of Maine’s weasels and Examples of Georgia’s weasels

Long-tailed Weasels VS Minks VS River Otters

Florida is home to three types of mustelids: the long-tailed weasel, the American mink, and the river otter. These creatures share a similar brown color and body shape. 

One easy way to distinguish between them is by size. Among these three, the long-tailed weasel is the smallest. Minks are a bit larger than weasels but smaller than river otters; otters can grow more than twice the size of minks and three times the size of weasels.

Detecting the presence and distribution of weasels and minks in the state poses challenges due to their small size, swift movements, and knack for staying hidden. 

Read More: Common weasel species in KY

Minks

mink on a rock
Image Credit: Pixabay.

Minks distinguish themselves from long-tailed weasels with slightly larger sizes, a consistent dark brown hue, a streamlined body, a thick tail, small ears, and eyes. They measure 12 to 16 inches in body length without the tail and can weigh up to 4 pounds when mature. 

Sometimes, minks exhibit a touch of white on their chin and throat. 

Interestingly enough, minks seem absent from central and northern Florida’s freshwater streams, rivers, and wetlands. Instead, they tend to appear in salt marsh habitats along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of this region. 

In the southern part of the state, minks can be spotted in the freshwater and saltwater marshes of the Everglades. Some places to see them there include Fort Clinch State Park, Big Talbot Island State Parks, Cedar Key Scrub State Preserve, and the forest within Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.

  • Scientific Name: Neogale vison 
  • Length: 12-18 in 
  • Weight: 1-4 lb
  • Tail Length: 6-10 in

Read More: Common weasel species in Wisconsin and Common weasel species in New York

Otters

North American River Otters
Image Credit: Canva.

River otters can be identified by their short legs, webbed toes, and strong, flattened tails. They range in color from light to dark brown and have 5 toes and a heel pad that is horseshoe-shaped. 

Notably, otters can be confused with long-tailed weasels, but they are far more sizable, weigh 10 to 30 pounds, measure 26-31 inches long, and have blunted noses and tails that are thick at the base and taper.

They are also more common than weasels and minks and can be seen throughout Florida (except the Keys), around rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and swamps.

  • Scientific Name: Lontra canadensis 
  • Length: 26-42 in
  • Weight: 10-30 lb
  • Tail Length: 12-20 in

Read More: Common weasel species in Massachusetts and Common weasel species in Ohio

Summary

Florida is home to 1 type of weasel, the long-tailed weasel. They can be sometimes confused for minks and otters but tend to be much smaller in size.

Unfortunately, North America’s weasel populations may be in serious decline. According to a 2019 study, their numbers have been going down and long-tailed weasels may have disappeared from large parts of their range.

You might spot them beneath short decks, porches, or other low structures, which they can use to sneak into buildings. They track the smell of mice that they’re hunting and sometimes end up indoors. One way to know they’ve been around is by their long, twisty droppings.

Weasels love to hunt and eat different animals that might cause damage to crops – that’s why many farmers and homeowners welcome these animals. 

The only thing they need to look out for is unsecured chickens and rabbits, weasels might catch them too!
Read More: Common weasel species in Michigan and Common weasel species in California

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