Mustela altaica


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Mustela altaica
Species Authority: Pallas, 1811
Common Name(s):
English Altai Weasel, Mountain Weasel, Pale Weasel

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Abramov, A., Wozencraft, C. & Ying-xiang, W.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is currently in significant decline (but probably at a rate of less than 30% over ten years) due to habitat conversion due to over-grazing by livestock through most of its range, and through agricultural control of its main prey species, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable. This species only occurs in a mountain meadows - themselves a threatened ecosystem within the its range. The species also occurs in an area where recent climate change and predicted future change in climate could substantially reduce the habitat. This species nearly qualifies for VU A2c and should be monitored.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is found in China, Kashmir (found across the Himalayan range of Nepal, Bhutan and India, eastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan ,Mongolia, DPR Korea, Russia (southern and southeastern Siberia, Primorski Krai), and Sikkim (Wozencraft, 2005). The listing from DPR Korea is in need of confirmation (W. Duckworth in litt. 2006). This species is found in the Himalayas up to 5000 m. In Bhutan, it is found from 1500-5,200 m (Thinley et al. 2004).
Bhutan; China; India; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Pakistan; Russian Federation; Tajikistan
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The species is common but not abundant throughout its range. Population density fluctuates depending on prey abundance by 4 or 5 times.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species prefers alpine meadow and lives among rocky slopes. It is also found in sparse forest vegetation and predominately open landscape (Kruska 1990). The species is exclusively carnivorous, preying mainly upon voles, mice, pikas, hamsters, small birds, lizards and insects (Pocock 1941), and is particularly dependent upon pikas Ochotona across much of its range (Smith and Foggin 1999). The gestation period is 38-40 days, without delayed implantation. The litter size is 2-6, sometimes up to 13 pups (A. Abramov pers. comm. 2006).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: --- Other purpose text ---
The species is occasionally hunted, and its main food species has been eradicated from large areas. The weasel and is susceptible to habitat conversion degradation due to grazing of the pika and other various species, particularly domestic livestock. It avoids agricultural lands.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is threatened by ongoing habitat conversion due to over-grazing by livestock through most of its range and these effects seem to be worsening with habitat change. Most seriously there are agriculturally-driven pika-control campaigns across much of the weasel's range, which have eradicated the weasel's main food from large areas (Hornskov and Foggin 2007). It is occasionally hunted and is also susceptible to "mountain meadow" degradation, of the habitats to which it is wholly adapted. This species does not tolerate a high degree of alteration and it avoids agricultural lands.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The population in the Russian Far East is listed in the Russian Red Data Book (GMA Small Carnivore Workshop 2006). In China, the species is listed as Near Threatened (GMA Small Carnivore Workshop 2006). This species is listed in Schedule II part II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Appendix III of CITES (India) ( It is protected by law in Sichuan, China (Yi-ming et al. 2000).

Bibliography [top]

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

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

Hornskov, J. and Foggin, M. 2007. Brief notes on the Altai Weasel Mustela altaica on the Tibetan plateau. Small Carnivore Conservation 36: 48-49.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Ministry of Nature and Environment. 2005. Manual for Foreign Hunters and Fishers. Ministry of Nature and Environment. State Inspection Agency and German Technical Cooperation, Ulaanbaatar.

Pocock, R.I. 1941. The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Taylor & Francis, Ltd., London, UK.

Smith, A. T. and Foggin, J. M. 1999. The Plateau Pika (Ochotona curzoniae) is a keystone species for biodiversity on the Tibetan plateau. Animal Conservation 2: 235-240.

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

Stubbe, M. 1965. Jagd, Jagdgesetz und Wild in der Mongolischen Volksrepublik. Beiträge zur Jagd- und Wildforschung 4: 163-178.

Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. 1993. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Wozencraft, W.C. 2005. Order Carnivora. In: D.E. Wilson and D.M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third Edition, pp. 532-628. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Citation: Abramov, A., Wozencraft, C. & Ying-xiang, W. 2008. Mustela altaica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 28 August 2015.
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