Mustela erminea - Linnaeus, 1758
Ermine
Other English Common Names: Short-tailed Weasel, Stoat, ermine
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Mustela erminea Linnaeus, 1758 (TSN 180555)
French Common Names: hermine
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103237
Element Code: AMAJF02010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Carnivores
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae Mustela
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.
Concept Reference Code: B93WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Mustela erminea
Taxonomic Comments: Twenty subspecies are recognized in the New World, fewer in the Old World (King 1983). Of the seven subspecies that occur in Alaska, six are endemic to the state; Mustela erminea arctica occurs throughout mainland Alaska and northern Canada, M. e. kadiacensis only on the Kodiak archipelago, M. e. salva on Admiralty Island, M. e. initis on Chichagof and Baranof Islands, M. e. alascensis on the Southeast Alaska mainland and nearshore islands, and M. e. celenda and M. e. seclusa on several islands at the south end of the Alexander Archipelago (Hall 1981). Taxonomic status for many subspecies remains unclear and review based on more specimens is needed (e.g., recognition of M. e. seclusa as a subspecies was based on a single specimen; MacDonald and Cook 1996).

Recent studies of skull characteristics and ermine genetics suggest the existence of 3 clades (possibly 3 species) in North America, members of all of which are found in Southeast Alaska: a Beringian lineage including M. e. salva and M. e. kadiacensis distributed in Alaska, eastern Russia, Japan, and Ireland; a continental lineage including M. e. initis and M. e. alascensis occurring from Alaska and western Canada across the U.S. to Wisconsin, California and New Mexico; and an island lineage including M. e. celenda and M. e. seclusa distributed on Prince of Wales and adjacent islands in the Alexander Archipelago and Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia (Eger 1990, Cook et al. 2001, Fleming and Cook 2002). Subspecies M. e. haidarum may be distinct enough to be reclassified as a separate species Mustela haidarum (previous name until 1951, Preble 1898), and under the rules of priority, would subsume both celenda and seclusa (MacDonald and Cook 2005).

See Eger (1990) for patterns of geographic skull variation in Nearctic populations.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 04Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 18Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Widespread and secure.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Sep1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (21Feb2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alaska (S5), Arizona (S1), California (SNR), Colorado (S4), Connecticut (S5), Idaho (S4), Iowa (S4), Maine (S5), Massachusetts (S5), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (SNR), Montana (S5), Nevada (S3), New Hampshire (S5), New Jersey (SU), New Mexico (S3), New York (S5), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (S3), Oregon (S5), Pennsylvania (S5), Rhode Island (SH), South Dakota (S4), Utah (S3S4), Vermont (S5), Washington (S5), Wisconsin (S4), Wyoming (S5)
Canada Alberta (S5), British Columbia (S5), Labrador (S5), Manitoba (S5), New Brunswick (S5), Newfoundland Island (S4), Northwest Territories (S5), Nova Scotia (S5), Nunavut (S5), Ontario (S5), Prince Edward Island (S5), Quebec (S5), Saskatchewan (S5), Yukon Territory (S5)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):PS:T
Comments on COSEWIC: The Queen Charlotte Islands Ermine is designated Threatened.
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Circumboreal range throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, from Greenland and the Canadian and Siberian Arctic islands south to about 35°N (King 1983, Fagerstone 1987). In North America, this species is found throughout Alaska and Canada south through most of the northern United States to central California, northern Arizona (Berna 1991), northern New Mexico, Iowa, the Great Lakes region, Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia (Fagerstone 1987).

Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a large number of occurrences (subpopulations).

Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but certainly exceeds 100,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)

Overall Threat Impact Comments: On a range-wide scale, no major threats are known. Locally the species may be threatened by unrestricted trapping and habitat loss due to timber harvest or natural disturbance (Fagerstone 1987).

Subspecies M. e. haidarum of the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, apparently is declining as a result of habitat destruction caused by introduced mammals (COSEWIC 2005).

Short-term Trend Comments: Populations are known to fluctuate with cyclic populations of voles, their primary food source (Fagerstone 1987).

Long-term Trend:  
Long-term Trend Comments: In Canada, fur yields have declined since the 1930s; however, this trend may simply reflect changes in fur value instead of population declines; research into short-term and long-term population trends is needed (Fagerstone 1987).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Population surveys are needed to determine distribution and abundance.

Distribution
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Global Range: Circumboreal range throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, from Greenland and the Canadian and Siberian Arctic islands south to about 35°N (King 1983, Fagerstone 1987). In North America, this species is found throughout Alaska and Canada south through most of the northern United States to central California, northern Arizona (Berna 1991), northern New Mexico, Iowa, the Great Lakes region, Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia (Fagerstone 1987).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, IA, ID, MA, ME, MI, MN, MT, ND, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VT, WA, WI, WY
Canada AB, BC, LB, MB, NB, NF, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2005; Sechrest, 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AK Kodiak Island (02150), Prince of Wales-Outer Ketchikan (CA) (02201)
OH Ashtabula (39007), Geauga (39055)*, Lake (39085)*, Trumbull (39155)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
04 Ashtabula-Chagrin (04110003)+*, Grand (04110004)+
05 Shenango (05030102)+
19 Prince of Wales (19010103)+, Kodiak-Afognak Islands (19020701)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A medium-sized weasel.
Reproduction Comments: Breeds July-August. Gestation lasts 255 days. Litter of 4-9 (average 6-7) is born mid-April to early May. Females are sexually mature in 3-4 months, males in 12 months (probably). Delayed implantation.
Ecology Comments: Home range averages 12-16 ha (Jackson 1961). In southern Ontario, density over 95 ha averaged 6 per sq km; home range averaged 20-25 ha for males, smaller for females; most individuals remained on study site less than 1 year (Simms 1979).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Alpine, Cropland/hedgerow, Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Old field, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris, Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: Prefers wooded areas with thick understory near watercourses. Rarely occurs in heavily forested regions. Has adapted to a wide variety of habitats. Dens in hollow log or under log, stump, roots, brushpile, or rocks. In winter in southern Ontario, usually stayed beneath snow surface (Simms 1979).
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore
Food Comments: Mainly small mammals, and occasionally other small vertebrates and insects.
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Mainly nocturnal, can been seen frequently during the day.
Length: 34 centimeters
Weight: 182 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Biological Research Needs: Research into ermine coexistence with least weasels and long-tailed weasels is needed, with special attention given to habitat and prey selection, as well as a comparison of possible threats and examination of declines in these three species. Continued study of morphology and genetics is needed to clarify subspecific taxonomic status, and to identify evolutionarily significant populations requiring special conservation.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Home ranges vary from 10 to 40 hectares, occasionally up to 200 hectares (summarized in Nowak 1991). As in most animals, dispersal likely is much greater than a small home range might suggest. The separation distance for suitable habitat is based on the likely low probability that two occupied locations separated by less than a few kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent populations.

Ermines occupy a wide variety of habitats, from tundra to dense forest; "unsuitable habitat" with regard to separation distance includes open water/ice and urban areas.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on a typical home range of 20 hectares (Nowak 1991).
Date: 02Apr2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 04Jan2008
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 19Apr1994
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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