Mustela erminea 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

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

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-05-02
Assessor(s): Reid, F., Helgen, K. & Kranz, A.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W.
This species is listed as Least Concern because it has a wide circumpolar distribution, is an abundant species, and faces no significant major threat.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Stoat has a circumboreal range across North America, Europe and Asia, from Greenland and the Canadian and Siberian Arctic islands south - with much variation - to about 35°N (King 1983, Fagerstone 1987). In North America, it 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). In Europe, it is present as far south as 41°N in Portugal (Santos Reis 1983), and is found on most islands with the exception of Iceland, Svalbard, some small North Atlantic islands, and the Mediterranean islands. In mainland Asia, it occurs south in China to Heilongjiang, Nei Mongol, Jilin, Liaoning and southern Xinjiang provinces (Wang 2003). It has a restricted distribution in the Himalaya, where it is confined to the west, in Ladakh (India), Pakistan and Afghanistan (Roberts 1977, Habibi 2003, Kotia et al. 2011). In Japan, it is present in the central mountains (northern and central Japan Alps) to northern parts of Honshu (primarily above 1,200 m) and Hokkaido (Abe et al. 2005). Lin and Harada (1998) indicated that they had discovered - but did not name - a new taxon of Mustela allied to M. erminea in Taiwan; however, this form is closer to (and probably within) Least Weasel M. nivalis (Abramov 2006). The Stoat has been introduced to New Zealand (King 1983). 

It occurs from sea level to at least 4,050 m (King 1983, Pulliainen 1999, Kotia et al. 2011).
Countries occurrence:
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
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):4050
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The Stoat's total adult population is evidently enormous, given its huge range in both Palaearctic and Nearctic. The density and structure of its populations are unstable, because of 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 Stoat and its prey tend to be more marked at more northerly latitudes (Pulliainen 1999), although fluctuations are also present in Spain (Blanco 1998, Palomo and Gisbert 2002). In much of its range it is a widespread and common in suitable habitats. In France, it was declining, but now has stabilised 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). However, in some parts of its range it is only recorded very rarely and seems genuinely to be scarce, notably the Himalayan subspecies, M. e. ferghanae (Kotia et al. 2011).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No
All individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Stoat occupies a wide range of habitats. It is 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 voles (King 1983). Pulliainen (1999) stated 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 in Mongolia, it inhabits taiga, forest-steppe and rocky parts of the semi-desert. It 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). It is active day and night (King 1983). Estimates for home range size range from 4 to 200 ha for males, most often falling between 10 and 40 ha (King 1983).
Generation Length (years):3.0
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: For information on use and trade, see under Threats.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): On a range-wide scale, no major threats to the Stoat are known. Locally the species may be threatened by unrestricted trapping and habitat loss through timber harvest or natural disturbance (Fagerstone 1987). In the Iberian Peninsula the species is perhaps dependent on two vole Arvicola species, and these are declining, so loss of prey base might 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 (R. McDonald pers. comm. 2006). In western and central Europe, the Stoat was frequently hunted for its white winter fur (ermine) 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: The Stoat 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 (R. McDonald pers. comm. 2006). The species is protected under national legislation in some range states (e.g. Spain, India), although this is not necessarily enforced (Palomo and Gisbert 2002, Kotia et al. 2011). However, in many parts of its global range the species is not protected and trapping is quite legal (R. McDonald pers. comm. 2006).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.1. Forest - Boreal
1. Forest -> 1.2. Forest - Subarctic
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.1. Shrubland - Subarctic
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.3. Shrubland - Boreal
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.1. Grassland - Tundra
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.2. Grassland - Subarctic
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.3. Wetlands (inland) - Shrub Dominated Wetlands
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.2. Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.3. Artificial/Terrestrial - Plantations
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

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.

Abramov, A.V. 2006. Taxonomic remarks on two poorly known Southeast Asian weasels (Mustelidae, Mustela). Small Carnivore Conservation 34&35: 22–24.

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.

Habibi, K. 2004. Mammals of Afghanistan. Zoo Outreach Organisation/USFWS, Coimbatore, India.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-1. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2016).

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

Kotia, A., Angmo, K., Bharti, R. R., Adhikari B. S. and Rawat, G. S. 2011. A record of the little-known Stoat Mustela erminea ferghanae from Ladakh, India. Small Carnivore Conservation 44: 42-43.

Lin, L.-K. and Harada, M. 1998. A new species of Mustela from Taiwan. In: S. Reig (ed.), Abstracts of the Euro-American Mammall Congress, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 1998, pp. 263.

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.

Roberts, T.J. 1977. The Mammals of Pakistan. Ernest Benn, 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.

Wang Y.X. 2003. A Complete Checklist of Mammal Species and Subspecies in China, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. China Forestry Publishing House, Beijing, China.

Citation: Reid, F., Helgen, K. & Kranz, A. 2016. Mustela erminea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T29674A45203335. . Downloaded on 27 August 2016.
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