least weasel

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The least weasel (Mustela nivalis) in its summer (top) and winter pelages (coats)

From least + weasel, from the fact that it is the smallest member of its genus.



least weasel (plural least weasels)

  1. The common weasel, little weasel, or simply weasel (Mustela nivalis), the smallest member of the weasel genus Mustela, native to Eurasia, North America, and North Africa.
    • 1877, Elliott Coues, “MUSTELINÆ—Continued: The Weasels. [The Weasel. Putorius (Gale) vulgaris.]”, in Fur-bearing Animals: A Monograph of North American Mustelidæ, [] (United States Geological Survey of the Territories, Department of the Interior, Miscellaneous Publications; no. 8), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 2500572, page 105:
      The range of the Least Weasel extends entirely across the continent on this hemisphere; but its north and south dispersion are less definite, in the present state of our knowledge.
    • 1884, Edward P[ayson] Roe, “An Old Tenement”, in Nature’s Serial Story, New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead, and Company, OCLC 804655581, page 342:
      Two other interesting animals may have lived in that tree, the least weasel and his sanguinary cousin the ermine, or large weasel. Both are brown, after the snow finally disappears, and both turn white with the first snow-storm.
    • 1918 May, Edward W[illiam] Nelson, “Smaller Mammals of North America”, in Gilbert H[ovey] Grosvenor, editor, National Geographic, volume XXXIII, number 5, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society [], ISSN 0027-9358, OCLC 1049714034, page 471:
      The least weasels are also circumpolar in distribution, but are limited to the northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. [...] Least weasels are characterized by the same swift alertness and boldness so marked in the larger species. In fact they are, if possible, even quicker in their movements.
    • 1961, Hartley H. T. Jackson, “Family Mustelidae, Weasels and Allies”, in Mammals of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, →ISBN, page 344, column 2:
      The least weasel is active both summer and winter, and although primarily nocturnal, it frequently hunts in the daytime. It neither hibernates nor migrates, though it may move from area to area to find available food.
    • 1973, John McPhee, “Travels in Georgia”, in Pieces of the Frame, 1st paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, published 1979, →ISBN, page 28:
      [S]he had hoped against hope that he would be a least weasel—smallest of all carnivores. She had never seen one. The least weasel diets almost exclusively on tiny, selected mice.
    • 1978 January, Steve Maslowski, “The Least Weasel”, in Boys’ Life: The Magazine for All Boys, volume LXVIII, number 1, North Brunswick, N.J.: Boy Scouts of America, OCLC 848277009, page 18, column 1:
      Ounce for ounce, few creatures who hunt can match the relentless little least weasel. Driven by hunger and nervous energy, this tiny bundle of muscle and nerves is an efficient killer. [...] The least weasel can't squirt its foul fume like a skunk, but it can raise a pretty good stink. In summer, the male wears a coat which a chocolate brown top and white belly. In winter, the entire coat becomes white to match the snow.
    • 2018 December 20, Yeong-Seok Jo; John T. Baccus; John L. Koprowski, “Carnivora [Mustela nivalis Linnaeus 1766—Least Weasel]”, in Mammals of Korea, Incheon: National Institute of Biological Resources, →ISBN, page 209:
      Least weasels kill prey much larger than themselves. [...] Least weasels kill small prey, such as voles, with a bite to the skull's occipital region or neck to disarticulate cervical vertebrae. [...] Least weasels do not dig dens, but nests[sic, meaning nest] in abandoned burrows of other species, such as moles or rats, in crevices among tree roots, hollow logs, or stone walls.


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