The Maine forest is brimming with wildlife, even n the depths of winter. Let’s meet the Maine weasels family, shall we?
The Ermine, also called a short-tailed weasel Mustela erminea is likely the most common Maine weasels you come across by humans. They are less fearful of humans and can often be found in suburban areas, or even apartment ceilings as noted in this article.
These sneaky devils even hunt under the snow in tunnels made by scurrying rodents, their main source of food. With such high metabolisms they eat about 2/3 of their bodyweight everyday to survive. Every. Day.
They are smart creatures, who use the fur of their prey to line their underground burrow. In winter, as the length of daylight hours diminishes, these Maine weasels turn white from their brown summer coat–all except for their distinctive black-tipped tail.
Ermine weigh up to 6.5 oz with bodies as long as 13.5 inches.
The long-tailed weasel Mustela frenata looks so much like the ermine they are often confused. Unlike the ermine, the molts of the Long-tailed depend on the region, rather than a response to daylight of the ermine. The most obvious difference is the longer tail which has less black on the tip than it’s cousin the ermine.
Long-tailed weasels weigh up to 9.5 oz with bodies as much as 22 inches long—substantially longer than the Ermine.
Mink (Neovison vison) swim along the shoreline, taking pause on partly submerged logs and rocks. They eat fish, frogs, ducks, mice, muskrats, mussels, and insects. These Maine weasels grow a couple feet long, with sleek, dark brown fur, and a characteristic white spot under their chin. They were hunted for their prized pelts in the rage of fur fashion in the 1920’s when their fur was worn as a whole pelt laid as a scarf over the shoulders.
The Marten, (Martes americana), reside in conifer forests with dense shrubs in western and northern Maine. An agile climber, they den in tree cavities and are are largely arboreal. Their favorite snacks include; voles, squirrels, birds, and insects, but they also take advantage of nuts and berries. They are about the size of a domestic cat, with long reddish-brown fur, dark brown legs, bushy tail, and an unmistakable pale face.
An extended breeding season begins in June and lasts through August curiously followed by an eight-month delayed egg implantation. Maine is at the current southerly limit of the species’ range in
Eastern North America.
The Fisher is so bold it has been found they even hunt Lynx. For some reason, when people like say they have seen them everyone brushes it off and say it must have been another member of the weasel family. It’s almost as if they were creatures of folklore. Maybe they den with Sasquatch and hunt jackalope?
They are sometimes called fisher cats, but are not related to cats. Maine fisher are solid dark brown and spend a lot of time in trees.
River otters are beloved by many and often not recognized as members of the weasel family given their aquatic lifestyle. I’ve certainly argued the point a few times. These large weasels grow to four feet long and 30 pounds.
I have to add that the male river otter are referred to as ‘meowters’. Say it out loud, cuteness overload. Almost as cute as porcupettes.
They are sometimes confused with mink given their shared love for the water, though mink prefer more secluded areas.
Well, folks, that wraps up Maine weasels!
*There are also sea otter, but those aren’t found in Maine.