Mustela erminea


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Mustela erminea
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name/s:
English Ermine, Stoat, Short-tailed Weasel
French Hermine
Spanish Armiño

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Reid, F. & Helgen, K.
Reviewer/s: Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Least Concern as it is a wide circumpolar distribution, it is an abundant species with no significant major threat.
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: 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). It has been introduced to New Zealand. In Europe, it is present as far south as 41ºN in Portugal (Santos Reis, 1983), and is found on most islands with the exception of Iceland, Svalbard, and some small North Atlantic islands. It does not occur on Mediterranean islands. In Japan, it is present in central mountains (northern and central Japan Alps) to northern part of Honshu (primarily above 1,200 m) and Hokkaido (Abe et al., 2005). Its vertical range is from sea level to 3,000 m (Pulliainen, 1999).
Afghanistan; Albania; Andorra; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Canada; China; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; India; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Netherlands; Norway; Pakistan; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Tajikistan; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States (Georgia); Uzbekistan
New Zealand
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Total adult population size is unknown but certainly exceeds 100,000. The density and structure of populations of this species are unstable, due to short life spans and high reproductive capacity. Populations are greatly influenced by fluctuations in prey supply (especially small mammals) (King, 1983; Pulliainen, 1999). Population fluctuations of stoats and their prey tend to increase in magnitude at more northerly latitudes (Pulliainen, 1999), although fluctuations have also been recorded in Spain (Blanco, 1998; Palomo and Gisbert, 2002). In France, it was declining, but now has stabilized as a result of full protection. In Spain it has been speculated that the population may be declining as a results of declines in the southern water vole, Arvicola sapidus, (Palomo and Gisbert, 2002), but the population trend has not been quantified in Spain or Portugal (Palomo and Gisbert, 2002; Cabral et al., 2005). It is abundant in north-western and central Mongolia, but is rare in the eastern plains (Bannikov, 1954; Dulamtseren, 1970; Sokolov and Orlov, 1980). Despite population fluctuations, it is a widespread and abundant species, common in suitable habitats. However, in some parts of its range it is rare.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Ermine (Stoat) occupy a wide range of habitats. They are often found in successional or forest-edge habitats, in scrub, alpine meadows, marshes, riparian woodlands, hedgerows, and riverbanks that have high densities of small mammals, especially Microtus and Arvicola species (King, 1983). Pulliainen (1999) states that coniferous and mixed woodlands are preferred, but that many other habitats are used including tundra and the summits of fells and mountains. Dense forests and deserts are avoided (King, 1983). Specifically to Mongolia, they inhabit taiga, forest-steppe and rocky parts of the semi-desert. This species is a specialist predator of small mammals, but will occasionally feed on fruit, earthworms, insects, eggs, and birds (King, 1983). Its local distribution is typically related to that of small rodents and lagomorphs (King, 1983; Pulliainen, 1999). This species is nocturnal but are often seen in daylight hours. Estimates for home range size range from 4 to 200 hectares for males, most often falling between 10 to 40 hectares (King, 1983).

Its local distribution is typically related to that of small rodents and lagomorphs (King, 1983). They tend to avoid dense forest and deserts, and are often found in successional or forest-edge habitats, in scrub, alpine meadows, marshes, riparian woodlands, hedgerows, and riverbanks that have high densities of small mammals, especially Microtus and Arvicola (King, 1983). Estimates for home range size range from 4 to 200 hectares for males, most often falling between 10 to 40 hectares (King, 1983).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): 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). In the Iberian Peninsula the species is dependent on two Arvicola species, and these are declining, so loss of prey base may be a threat (Palomo and Gisbert, 2002). Habitat loss (e.g. as a result of urbanization: Pulliainen, 1999) is also a problem in parts of the range. The species is commonly hunted in Russia, where there is also a limited fur trade (McDonald pers. comm.). In western and central Europe, the stoat was frequently hunted for its white winter fur up until at least the 1930s, with c.30,000 pelts sold in Finland alone during that decade (Pulliainen, 1999). Availability of prey is the principal factor controlling population density (King, 1983; Pulliainen, 1999), but disease, parasites and other pressures can also contribute.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention. The Indian population of Mustela erminea ferghanae is listed on CITES Appendix III. It occurs in many protected areas across its range. Monitoring of exploitation is required by the Bern Convention (McDonald pers. comm.). The species is protected under national legislation in some range states (e.g. Spain), although this is not necessarily enforced (Palomo and Gisbert, 2002). However, in many parts of its global range the species is not protected and trapping is quite legal (McDonald pers. comm.).

Bibliography [top]

Abe, H., Ishii, N., Ito, T., Kaneko, Y., Maeda, K., Miura, S. and Yoneda, M. 2005. A Guide to the Mammals of Japan. Tokai University Press, Kanagawa, Japan.

Bannikov, A. G. 1954. Mammals of the Mongolian People’s Republic. Nauka, Moscow, Russia.

Blanco, J. C. 1998. Mamíiferos de España. Editorial Planeta, Barcelona, Spain.

Cabral, M. J., Almeida, J., Almeida, P. R., Dellinger, T., Ferrand de Almeida, N., Oliveira, M. E., Palmeirim, J. M., Queiroz, A. I., Rogado, L. and Santos-Reis, M. (eds). 2005. Livro Vermelho dos Vertebrados de Portugal. Instituto da Conservação da Natureza, Lisboa.

Dulamtseren, S. 1970. Guide Book of the Mammals in Mongolia. Publishing House of the Mongolian Academy of Science, Ulaanbaatar.

King, C. M. 1983. Mustela erminea. Mammalian Species 197: 1-8.

Palomo, L. J. and Gisbert, J. 2002. Atlas de los mamíferos terrestres de España. Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza. SECEM-SECEMU, Madrid, Spain.

Pulliainen, E. 1999. Mustela erminea. In: A. J. Mitchell-Jones, G. Amori, W. Bogdanowicz, B. Kryštufek, P. J. H. Reijnders, F. Spitzenberger, M. Stubbe, J. B. M. Thissen, V. Vohralík and J. Zima (eds), The Atlas of European Mammals, Academic Press, London, UK.

Santos Reis, M. 1983. Status and distribution of the Portuguese mustelids. Acta Zoologica Fennica 174: 213-216.

Sokolov, V. E. and Orlov, V. N. 1980. Guide to the Mammals of Mongolia. Pensoft, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Reid, F. & Helgen, K. 2008. Mustela erminea. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 21 April 2014.
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