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Weasel Family

Scientific name: Mustelidae family

Lewisboro is home to a surprising number of species within the weasel family. Short and long-tailed weasel, mink, marten, fisher, river otter – in addition to the beaver – have all been identified here in New York state. Their distinctive physical characteristics are a long body, short legs, long neck, triangular head, protruding ears and long whiskers.

Waldie Gullen, a Waccabuc resident who grew up here, reminisced that as a young boy (circa 1930s) in the winter months, he made a lot of money trapping muskrats and an occasional mink. Muskrats and minks live in water . . .and Waccabuc has a lot of streams and swamps (i.e. wet lands). In a good winter, Waldie said he would trap about 60 muskrat and from 10 to 12 mink. A fur buyer in Ridgefield paid $ 2/skin for muskrat and $ 30/skin for mink.

Their habitats give a clue as to who they are! River otter and mink are found in and around waterways and are well-adapted to swimming and diving. They are easy to distinguish from one another, as the otter can weigh up to 30 pounds and is tan. They can be up to 3 to 4 feet long. The mink is three to six pounds and a glossy brown to black, with a white patch on their chin.

The long and short-tail weasel, fisher and muskrats all make their home in wooded areas or in and around fields.

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Long-tailed weasel; photo by Keith and Kasia
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Mustelids are primarily carnivorous although some have been known to supplement their diets with plant matter. Oddly enough, the smaller of the weasels often attack and kill prey, such as rabbits and birds, much larger in size.

Life Cycle

They stay in family groups during the summer months.

Human Connections

Mustelid fur is prized for its thickness and texture. The mink, also found in this region, being one of the most prized for its coat. Trapping weasels for fur has been a human tradition since prehistoric times, was one of the biggest economies during colonial America, and still continues today, legally and illegally, in New York state.

Fun Facts

A common household pet, the ferret, is a Mustelid, domesticated 2,500 years ago in Europe.

A group of weasels can be called a boogle, gang, pack, and confusion.

Weasels have glands that excrete a foul-smelling substance when they are under attack. Their nimble bodies also help them avoid predators, which is how we have the saying “weasel out of” something.

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