least weasel

(Mustela nivalis allegheniensis)


The least weasel is smaller than a chipmunk, slender, with short legs and tail, and dark brown fur except a white chin, throat, chest, and belly. Males have a total length 184-217 mm, and weigh 34-64 grams, with the females being slightly smaller. This is the smallest carnivore in Virginia. Unlike most Mustelids, there is no delayed implantation, and they have more litters per year (2-3) and more young per litter (3-6, or 10) than any other American weasel. They seldom travel far, and build underground nests lined with grasses, mouse fur, bones and feathers. They are solitary but also vocal and will chirp when disturbed, hiss when threatened, squeal if in pain and emit a trill during social interaction.


The least weasel is found throughout the western part of Virginia, from the Appalachians west. They do not prefer a particular habitat, over any other and can be found anywhere.


The most common food is the meadow vole but they also take other voles, mice, shrews, insects and small birds. The diet is affected by habitat. They require up to 40% of their body weight in food daily. They require a constant supply of drinking water.