Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Alabama Seeking Long-Tailed Weasel Sighting Information

The Alabama Division of Wildlife is looking for sightings of the long-tailed weasel. To our knowledge, long-tailed weasels have never been common in Alabama. In his 1921 report, “A Biological Survey of Alabama,” Arthur Howell observed “Weasels are apparently scarce everywhere in the Southern States and specimens are difficult to obtain.” These lively, intelligent animals are Alabama’s smallest carnivore. Seemingly full of energy, they bound about enthusiastically searching for prey. Long-tailed weasels primarily eat mice and rats, but this “generalist” predator has a broad diet that includes small rabbits, squirrels, birds, reptiles, and insects. Long-tailed weasels are also habitat generalists, living in a variety of ecosystems from forests to wetlands to grasslands. The key limiting factor for their distribution seems to be abundant availability of prey.

Like all members of the weasel family, long-tailed weasels have long, cylindrical bodies, short legs, and powerful jaws for catching and killing prey. They resemble mink, another Alabama member of the weasel family, but they can be distinguished in a few ways. Long-tailed weasels are distinctly two-tone in color, brown on top and creamy-white below, whereas mink are uniformly dark brown. Long-tailed weasels have a clearly defined black-tipped tail. Mink fur may gradually become darker toward the back of the body and tail, but the tail does not have the obvious black tip. The animals also differ in size. Long-tailed weasels are smaller than a gray squirrel whereas mink are larger.

Today the long-tailed weasel still remains rare and elusive throughout the southeast and our understanding of why this species remains more uncommon here than it does in other parts of the country is poor at best. You can help the Nongame Wildlife Program learn more about the distribution of long-tailed weasels by reporting your sightings with photographs and location information to Alabama Division of Wildlife.

To learn more about the long-tailed weasel, check out our watchable wildlife page.