Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Mustelidae
Genus Mustela
Species nivalis
Classification Linnaeus, 1766
Common name least weasel
Size 15 - 27 centimeters. Tail: 4 - 9 centimeters.
Male weight 100 - 130 grams
Female weight 50 - 70 grams

Geographic Range it is found in Europe, North Africa, Asia and North America.
Physical Characteristics long, slender body, long neck, short paws. Big black eyes, rounded, short ears. Paws have five toes provided with sharp claws. The back part of the fur is dark brown, while the lower part of the body is white with brown spots. The hair of the fur is about 1 centimeters long in summer, while in winter it may be up to 1.5 centimeters long; moreover, while in the northern populations the fur can turn white, in the animals living more south it remains brown.
Behaviour the male and the female always live separated except for the breeding season. As the territory of the female is smaller than that occupied by the male, more than one female may live inside the territory of the male. The females can send off both males and females that enter the territory. The least weasel is very active both day and night; in summer the females are less active than the males and remain in their nest in order to save energy for pregnancy. The young spend most of their time playing. The least weasel observes the movement of its prey before attacking it and when doing so it aims at the neck of the victim. The least weasel often changes its den and takes the one of the killed prey. It often kills more than what it can eat and stores the extra food in the sideways inside the den. Like other Mustelidae, the least weasel owns characteristic anal glands employed to mark and defend their territory. When it is disturbed it gives out a shrill cry and, if threatened it hisses. It may live in nature until 4 years of age.
Habitat it can live in many kinds of habitat: open forests, cultivated fields, grasslands, steppes, semidesert zones, marshes.
Food habits small mammals, especially rodents and when they are scarce the diet is completed with eggs and young of birds.
Reproduction in central Europe, in North America and in the eastern countries the reproduction may occur all year round, even if it mainly takes place in spring and late summer. Pregnancy may last from 34 to 37 days; the clutch may be composed by 1 to 7 young and each of them weighs in average 1.5 grams; they are naked, blind and deaf. At the age of four weeks they open their eyes, in the seventh week they get weaned and start going hunting. In the ninth-eleventh week the family begins to divide and in the thirteenth week they reach the adult mass. The females that come to light in spring reach sexual maturity within three months and can reproduce during the first summer. The females that come to light during summer and autumn are not well developed and cannot reproduce until the following summer.
Status in the lagoon it is found in the Casse di Colmata (reclaimed areas) at the mouth of Piave, in Cavallino's fossil dunes, along Ca' Savio's littoral, in the Bosco Nordio and in some fish farms (Grassabò, Dragojesolo, Fosse, Lio Maggiore, Perini, Serraglia, Averto, Pierimpié, Ghebo Storto, Morosina).

References Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology
The Mammal Society
Parchi e Riserve naturali in Emilia Romagna
Guida alla natura nella Laguna di Venezia - di Giampaolo Rallo - Franco Muzzio editore
Web References http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/
Source of the photo http://www.photoweb.ru/prophoto
Pawprint image source http://www.regione.emilia-romagna.it/parchi/fauna/donnola.htm

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