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Pine martenPine marten The weasel family, also called the mustelids, includes weasels, stoats, minks, ferrets, polecats, martens, the sable, skunks, otters, badgers and the wolverine. They are carnivores with long bodies, short legs and often long tails. Mustelids can be found on and under the ground, in the trees or in the water. Most feed on smaller mammals, especially rodents, but some will also eat worms, fruit and insects. Apart from some otters and badgers, the weasel family are solitary mammals, keeping to their own territories and fighting if these are invaded. Males and females usually come together only to breed.


Many members of the weasel family can produce a foul-smelling liquid called musk, both to mark their territories and to defend themselves against predators. Musk is produced in the anal scent glands. Among the best known of these musk-producers are the striped polecat, also called the zorilla, of Africa, and the skunk of North and Central America.
A stoat has found this lemming's burrow A stoat has found this lemming's burrow


Distinguished from least weasels by their larger size and black tips to their tails, stoats are ferocious predators. They will sometimes attack animals over twice their own size. They search for prey inside burrows or in other likely hiding places.

Their slim bodies enable them to chase their quarry along narrow tunnels under the ground or beneath the snow. Stoats kill their prey with a sharp bite to the back of the neck.

Stoats that live in the Arctic change the colour of their fur to white (except for the black tip of their tail) in winter for better camouflage against the snowy landscape.

The least weasel is the smallest carnivore in the world. It can chase mice and voles down into their tiny burrows.

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