The Alabama Nongame Wildlife Program is looking for sightings of the long-tailed weasel.
If you catch a glimpse of a long-tailed weasel in Alabama, you will be one of the few Alabamians who have, as they are rarely seen in the state. These lively, intelligent animals are Alabama’s smallest carnivore. Seemingly full of energy, they bound enthusiastically about searching for prey. They 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 generalists in that they can live in a variety of ecosystems from forests to wetlands to grasslands. The key limiting factor seems to be abundant availability of prey.
Long-tailed weasels are the rarest member of the weasel (mustelid) family in Alabama, their more common kin being river otters and the somewhat less common mink. Little is known about their abundance, distribution, and ecology in the state. As far as we know, they 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.” They remain rare and elusive in the southeast and we don’t know why they are not as common as they are in other parts of the country. As a first step to learn more about the weasel in the state, you can help us get a clearer picture of their whereabouts by reporting sightings with photographs and locations (including game camera photos and roadkill).
Here is how to identify the long-tailed weasel. All members of the weasel family, have long, cylindrical bodies, short legs, and powerful jaws for catching and killing prey. Long-tailed weasels resemble mink, but they can be distinguished in a few ways. Long-tailed weasels are small, about the size of a gray squirrel, whereas mink are larger than a squirrel. Long-tailed weasels are distinctly two-tone in color, being brown on top and creamy-white below, whereas mink are uniformly dark brown. Long-tailed weasels have a clearly 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.
Send your photos along with date and location of the observation to: firstname.lastname@example.org