In order to keep track of the state’s population of its crucial, tiny predators, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is asking locals to report sightings of long-tailed weasels. Just over a foot long and barely weighing a pound, these creatures are known for being incredibly aloof and tend to escape wildlife officers’ watch which is why it will take more than just the FWC to get an accurate reading on the population.
Often confused with other weasel family members, like the mink and least weasel, the long-tailed variety sports the typical long, slender body and long neck as well as short, rounded ears, silky brown fur with a white belly and, of course, a much longer tail. Despite their small frame, they have wolfish tendencies and appetites, frequently taking down creatures much larger than themselves.
“They’re tiny, but they’re mighty,” said Lisa Smith, a research associate with FWC’s Terrestrial Mammal Group. “They’re always kind of poking into things.”
“They eat a lot of small mammals, and they can take on some bigger prey.”
Long-tailed weasels tend to hang out in abandoned burrows, brush near the water’s edge, under rock crevices and even under tree roots. Their diet consists of animals like shrews, mice, squirrels, moles, rabbits, birds and reptiles.
Today, trappers still seek out long-tailed weasels for their fur, and unfortunately, this has put a huge dent in the area’s population. Smith reported that in 2000, there were about 200 long-tailed weasel sightings.
“Since then, we have had nine sightings,” Smith said. “So, they seem to have declined quite a bit. And most of the sightings were in the extreme western panhandle or very close to Georgia.”
Wildlife Expert Gives Tips for Spotting Long-Tailed Weasels
In order to help folks (and the state) log their long-tailed weasel sightings, Smith gave some characteristics to look out for as well as tips for setting up cameras.
“They’re brown with a white belly, and they can have white markings on their face, too, especially in Florida,” Smith said.
In colder parts of the country, long-tailed weasels will sport white fur to blend in with the snowy season. But given the Sunshine State’s climate, these creatures prefer their brown coats.
“If you have a camera set up around your house, and you see a weird little critter come across, and you don’t know what it is, you can send it to us, and we can try to help out,” Smith said.
Long-tailed weasels may not be on the endangered species list right now, however, with these new sightings from locals, their status may change.
“We could need to reevaluate their status in the state, but we can’t say anything for sure until we can figure out how to study them with good scientific methods,” Smith said.
Depending on how many reports of these critters appear, the FWC may need to take action to protect them. Here’s where you can report a sighting of a long-tailed weasel.