Other Mustelids

The following mustelids have common names that are shared by other, well-known species they are not closely related to. For example: The American mink is not closely related to the European mink, and the honey badger is not closely kindred to the European badger.

We are aware some of the species below have been excluded from others despite being members of the same subfamily, but for the sake of simplicity, they are being separated based on their independent genus. No otters of a single genus are being included in this list, since all mustelids within the subfamily Lutrinae are well known by their appearance, and share very similar characteristics.

(1) African Striped Weasel (Poecilogale albinucha)

Photo by Devonpike

The African striped weasel is native to sub-Saharan Africa, and is one of the smallest carnivores on the continent. It is black and white (or yellowish) in colour and closely resembles a skunk. They have a body length of around 300 mm (11 inches), and weight between 250-350 grams (9-12 ounces).  Males are slightly larger the females.

Their diet consists of rodents, young birds, reptiles, and insects on occasion.

Appearance

Conservation status: Least concern

(2) American Badger (Taxidea taxus)

Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa

The American badger is found primarily in the Great Plains region of North America. They are stocky mustelids known for their intimidating defensive displays and fearlessness, but also for their secretive nature.(1)

Appearance

The American badger’s short legs and broad bodies would suggest a link to other badger species such as the European badger, however the two are not closely related with the two species belonging to separate genus.(2)American badgers have have grizzled, brown, black and white fur; having a nearly brown-tan appearance. They have black and white patches on their face, including brown to black markings on the cheeks known as “badges”. The throat and chin are whitish, and a white dorsal stripe extends from the nose to the base of the head. In the subspecies T. t. berlandieri, the white dorsal stripe extends the full length of the body to the rump.(3)

Habitat and diet

Their habitat of choice are mainly open prairies where sandy soils make it easier to dig burrows and dig out their prey,(4) which consists of small burrowing animals such as ground squirrels, rats, gophers and other small animals.(5) American badgers can also be found supplementing their diets with plant foods such as corn, green beans and mushrooms.(6)

American badgers live a predominantly nocturnal life which some exceptions in particularly remote areas.(7) Currently the biggest threats to the American badger is the conversion of their natural habitat into intensive agriculture, vehicle collisions and prosecution of their prey species.(8)

Hunting associations between American badgers and coyotes

American badgers and coyotes have been known to hunt prairie dogs and ground-squirrels in tandem. Studies have shown this unusual relationship is beneficial for both species—the coyote will chase down prey that runs from the badger, and the badger will dig after prey if it heads underground to escape the coyote. Typically this pairing is one badger to one coyote, however, one study found about 9% of sightings included two coyotes to one badger, while 1% had one badger to three coyotes.(9)(10)(11)(12)

Size: 60–75 cm / 23.5–29.5 in (males)
Weight: 6–11 kg / 14–25 lb (males), 6–7 kg / 14–16 lb (females)
Lifespan: 10 years
Range: Western and central United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada.
Conservation status: Least concern
Recognised subspecies(13)

  1. T. t. berladieri
  2. T. t. jacksoni
  3. T. t. jeffersonii
  4. T. t. marylandica
  5. T. t. taxus
References

  1. “What does it look like?” http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/featured-species/mammals/american_badger.html
  2. Law, C. J.; Slater, G. J.; Mehta, R. S. (2018-01-01). “Lineage Diversity and Size Disparity in Musteloidea: Testing Patterns of Adaptive Radiation Using Molecular and Fossil-Based Methods”. Systematic Biology. 67 (1): 127–144. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syx047
  3. American Society of Mammalogists Staff; Smithsonian Institution Staff (1999). The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. UBC Press. p. 179. ISBN 0-7748-0762-8.
  4. “Habitat” https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/americanbadger.htm
  5. “Diet” https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/americanbadger.htm
  6. “Food Habits” https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Taxidea_taxus/
  7. “Long, Charles A. (1972). “Taxidea taxus” (PDF). Journal of Mammalogy. 26 (26): 1–4. doi:10.2307/3504047. JSTOR 3504047. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-07.”
  8. “Threats to their safety and wellbeing” http://www.wildlifelandtrust.org/wildlife/close-ups/american-badger.html
  9. “Spotted! A Coyote and Badger Hunting Together”fws.gov.
  10. “Why coyotes and badgers hunt together”mnn.com.
  11. “Do coyotes and badgers work together to find food?”howstuffworks.com.
  12. “Video shows coyote and badger on a mission together” https://youtu.be/6RC_6teBS6o CBS News YouTube. Retrieved 02-09-2020.
  13. Long, Charles A. “Taxidea taxus.” Mammalian Species 26 (1973): 1-4.

(3) American mink (Neovison vison)

Photo by Needsmoreritalin

The American mink is native to the forested areas near rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and marshes in North America. The American mink and its recently extinct cousin the sea mink (Neovison macrodon), have been considered the only “true” species of mink. The supposed European mink is actually a semi-aquatic polecat, being much closer related to the European polecat and Siberian weasel.(1)(2) The American mink was once considered a weasel of the genus Mustela, but in 1999 its Latin name was changed to Neovison.(3)

Appearance

The American mink’s fur is usually dark brown with white patches on the chin, chest, and throat areas. The fur is soft and thick, with oily guard hairs that waterproof the animal’s coat.(4) The summer coat is generally shorter, sparser and duller than the winter coat.(5) American minks have partially webbed toes, supporting its semi-aquatic nature.(6)

Diet

The diet of American minks varies with the season. During the summer they consume crayfish and small frogs, as well as smaller mammals such as shrews, rabbits, mice, and muskrats. Fish, ducks and other water fowl provide additional food choices.(7)

Colour mutations

Due to selective breeding, farm-bred American minks can range in colour from beiges, greys; to a brown that is almost black.(8) You’ll often see them portrayed as pure white in visual media, but this colour too is only created through selective breeding. A mink’s natural colour in the wild is brown. In the wild, their diet consists of rodents, fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and birds.(9)

Introduced range and fur farming

The American mink is a semiaquatic species native to North America. Its fur has been highly prized for use in clothing, with hunting giving way to fur-farming. Their treatment on fur farms has been a focus of animal rights and animal welfare activism.(10) Between the 1920s and 1950s, American minks were imported to Europe, the USSR and southern South America for fur-farming. Today in parts of Europe, released or escaped American minks have been classified as an invasive species and linked to the decline of the European mink,(11)(12) as well as other small mammals and birds. Similar to the importation of stoats in New Zealand, it was human self-interest and irresponsibility that led to this biological disruption, not the imported mink.

Use in hunting

If properly trained, American minks make excellent hunting companions, as demonstrated by Joseph Carter ‘The Mink Man’ on his YouTube channel.

Size: 34–45 cm / 13–18 in (males), 31–37.5 cm / 12–15 in (females)
Weight: 500–1,580 g / 1–3 lb (males), 400–780 g / 1–2 lb (females)
Lifespan: 5–10 years
Range: North America (introduced to parts of Eurasia and South America)
Conservation status: Least concern
Recognised subspecies(13)

  1. N. v. aestuarina
  2. N. v. aniakensis
  3. N. v. energumenos
  4. N. v. evagor
  5. N. v. evergladensis
  6. N. v. ingens
  7. N. v. lacustris
  8. N. v. letifera
  9. N. v. lowii
  10. N. v. lutensis
  11. N. v. melampeplus
  12. N. v. mink
  13. N. v. nesolestes
  14. N. v. vison
  15. N. v. vulgivaga
References

  1. Davidson, A., Griffith, H. I., Brookes, R. C., Maran, T., MacDonald, D. W., Sidorovich, V. E., Kitchener, A. C., Irizar, I., Villate, I., Gonzales-Esteban, J., Cena, A., Moya, I. and Palazon Minano, S. 2000. Mitochondrial DNA and paleontological evidence for the origin of endangered European mink, Mustela lutreola Archived 20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Animal Conservation 3: 345–357.
  2. Marmi, Josep, Juan Francisco López‐Giráldez, and Xavier Domingo‐Roura. “Phylogeny, evolutionary history and taxonomy of the Mustelidae based on sequences of the cytochrome b gene and a complex repetitive flanking region.” Zoologica Scripta 33.6 (2004): 481-499.
  3. Abramov, A. V. “A taxonomic review of the genus Mustela (Mammalia, Carnivora).” Zoosystematica rossica 8.2 (2000): 357.
  4. Feldhamer, G. A., BRUCE C. Thompson, and JOSEPH A. Chapman. “Wild mammals of North America.” The Johns Hopkins (1982).
  5. Heptner, V. G., and A. A. Sludskii. “Mammals of the Soviet Union. Vol. II, part 1b, Carnivores (Mustelidae and Procyonidae).” Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Libraries and National Science Foundation (2002).
  6. Van Gelder, Richard George. Mammals of the national parks. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.
  7. Schlimme, Kurt. “Neovison vison.” On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 3 (2003): 2015.
  8. Bachrach, Max (1953). Fur: a practical treatise (3rd ed.). New York: Prentice-Hall.
  9. Harris, S., and D. W. Yalden. “Mammals of the British Isles, 4th edn (Southampton: Mammal Society).” (2008).
  10.  Dutch minister reverses battery and mink ban. (Netherlands).(Defeat f…. 29 January 2009. Archived from the original on 29 January 2009.
  11. Clode D; MacDonald DW, 2002. Invasive predators and the conservation of island birds: the case of American Mink Mustela vison and terns Sterna spp. in the Western Isles, Scotland. Bird Study, 49:118-123.
  12. Maran, T. and Henttonen, H. 1995. Why is the European mink, Mustela lutreola disappearing? – A review of the process and hypotheses. Annales Fennici Zoologici 32: 47–54.
  13. Wilson, Don E., and DeeAnn M. Reeder, eds. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Vol. 1. JHU Press, 2005.

(4) Hog Badger (Arctonyx collaris)

Photo by Rushenb

The hog badger, also known as the greater hog badger, is a terrestrial mustelid native to Central and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because the global population is thought to be declining due to high levels of poaching.

Appearance

Conservation status: Vulnerable

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(5) Honey Badger / Ratel (Mellivora capensis)

Photo by Aleutia

The honey badger, also known as the ratel, is a terrestrial animal that inhabits many habitats, including tropical and subtropical green forests, thorn forests, open woodlands, riparian forests or grasslands, arid steppes, rocky hills, and deserts.(1)(2) It is a mostly solitary and nomadic animal, that is known for its strength and boldness. The honey badger is known to attack almost any other species when it is cornered; including much larger predators such as lions and hyenas.(3) It was listed as the “world’s most fearless animal” in a 2002 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Appearance

Though the colour varies slightly by subspecies, generally the lower half of their bodies are dark black, with lighter shades of fur above that are either grey or white. The lighter fur colouring extends from the forehead to the base of the tail.(4) Honey badgers have very thick and loose skin, which gives them an advantage over their predators, by enabling them to easily escape another animal’s grasp.(5)

Diet

Honey badgers are foragers, and eat a variety of smaller food items such as small rodents, snakes, birds, frogs, insect larvae, beetles, scorpions and lizards. They will occasionally catch larger animals like leguaans, crocodiles, pythons, springhares, polecats; including juvenile foxes, jackals, antelope and wild cats.(1) Honey badgers also known to eat fruit, roots, and bulbs.(2)(5) True to their namesake, honey badgers are partial to bee hives. They are known for damaging commercial hives by breaking into the hives and eating the honey. They will even consume the bee larvae inside the honey, which results in a monetary loss for beekeepers.(6)

Honeyguides myth

Contrary to popular belief, there is no persuasive evidence that honeyguides guide honey badgers.(7)(8)(9) It is believed this myth became popular after dishonest wildlife documentary-makers filmed a tamed honey badger interacting with a stuffed honeyguide.(7)(10)

Intelligence

Honey badgers are considered to be very intelligent animals. Recent studies have shown they are capable of problem solving—even if the solution to the problem has changed, they are capable of adapting to that new solution. They are also one of few animals that have been observed using tools—using objects to stand or climb on to escape captivity, or to reach food that would otherwise be out of their reach.(11)

In popular culture

Stoffel is a rescued honey badger that is kept at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa. His caretaker, Brian Jones, built him a cage to keep out of trouble. However, Stoffel’s incredible escape antics have made him the discussion of the species’ intelligence. Stoffel would dig up rocks and pile them into a corner to reach the top of the wall, when the rocks were removed, he would roll mud balls into a corner to accomplish the same escape. He would also grab rakes, shovels, tyres or any other item he could use to climb out of his cage.(11) A documentary featuring Stoffel was made by the PBS’s Nature TV series, Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem.

Size: 60–70 cm / 23.62–27.56 in (males)
Weight: 10–16 kg / 20–35 lb (males) 5–10 kg / 11–22 lb (females)
Lifespan: 7–8 years
Range: Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
Conservation status: Least concern
Recognised subspecies(12)

  1. M. c. abyssinica
  2. M. c. buechneri
  3. M. c. capensis
  4. M. c. concisa
  5. M. c. cottoni
  6. M. c. inaurita
  7. M. c. indica
  8. M. c. leuconota
  9. M. c. maxwelli
  10. M. c. pumilio
  11. M. c. signata
  12. M. c. wilsoni
References

  1. Do Linh San, E., et al. “Mellivora capensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e. T41629A45210107.” (2016).
  2. Gupta, Shilpi, et al. “Abundance and habitat suitability model for Ratel (Mellivora capensis) in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Western India.” Wildlife Biology in Practice 8.1 (2012): 13-22.
  3. Hunter, Luke. Carnivores of the world. Vol. 117. Princeton University Press, 2019.
  4. Vanderhaar, Jana M., and Yeen Ten Hwang. “Mellivora capensis.” Mammalian Species 2003.721 (2003): 1-8.
  5. Rosevear, Donovan Reginald, et al. The carnivores of west Africa. 1974.
  6. Bright, Paul W. “Lessons from lean beasts: conservation biology of the mustelids.” Mammal Review 30.3‐4 (2000): 217-226.
  7. Dean, W. R. J., W. Roy Siegfried, and I. A. W. MacDonald. “The fallacy, fact, and fate of guiding behavior in the greater honeyguide.” Conservation Biology 4.1 (1990): 99-101.
  8. Fincham, John E., Richard Peek, and Miles Markus. “The Greater Honeyguide: Reciprocal signalling and innate recognition of a Honey Badger.” Biodiversity Observations 8 (2017): 12-1.
  9. Macdonald, I. “The honeyguide and the honey-badger: a persistent African fairy tale.” Africa–Environment & Wildlife 2.4 (1994): 13.
  10. Yong, Ed (21, July 2016). “How To Summon The Bird That Guides You To Honey” The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  11.  Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem by PBS’s Nature TV series (2014) – https://youtu.be/c36UNSoJenI
  12. Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). “Order Carnivora”. In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). “Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference” (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 612.

(6) Marbled Polecat (Vormela peregusna)

Photo by  Laszlo Szabo-Szeley © AVESTOURS

The marbled polecat is generally found in the drier areas and grasslands of southeastern Europe to western China.

Appearance

The marbled polecat has an unusual and very striking appearance for a mustelid – with brightly-coloured fur, a long bushy tail it will curve over its back to appear larger when threatened, and shaggy white fur on its ears. It has a dark brown to black underside, legs and facial mask; with white markings on its muzzle, forehead, and tail. Its back is covered in yellow-orange fur with irregular brown or black spots and markings. Marbled polecats are found in open desert, semidesert, and semiarid rocky areas in upland valleys and low hill ranges, steppe country and arid subtropical scrub forest. They tend to avoid mountainous regions.(1)(2)(3)

Diet and behaviour

Marbled polecats are solitary animals, and tend to become aggressive when meeting another.(1) When threatened, it arches back its head and bares its teeth, while releasing shrills and short hisses.(2)(3) They tend to dwell in the burrows of large ground squirrels or similar rodents, but may also dig their own dens or live underground. Their natural diet consists of rodents, small hares, birds, small reptiles, amphibians, fish, snails, insects and fruit.(1)(2)(4)(5)(6)

Size: 29–35 cm / 11.4–13.7 in (males)
Weight: 320–715 g / 11–25 oz (males), 295–600 g / 10–21 oz (females)
Lifespan: Not reported.
Range: Southeast Europe to Russia and China.
Conservation status: Vulnerable
References

  1. Novikov, G. A. “Carnivorous mammals of the fauna of USSR Israel Program Sci.” Translations, Jerusalem (1962).
  2. Roberts, Tom J., and Bernhard (principe d’Olanda.). “The mammals of Pakistan.” (1977).
  3. Stroganov, S. U. “Carnivorous Mammals of Siberia. Israel Program for Scientific Translations.” (1969): 432-439.
  4. Ben-David, M. The biology and ecology of the marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna syriaca) in Israel. Diss. MSc Thesis, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University (In Hebrew), 1988.
  5. Harrison, David L., and Paul JJ Bates. The mammals of Arabia. Vol. 1. London: Benn, 1964.
  6. Macdonald, David Whyte, and Priscilla Barrett. Mammals of Britain & Europe. HarperCollins, 1993.

(7) Patagonian Weasel (Lyncodon patagonicus)

Photo credit unknown.

The Patagonian weasel is the only member of the genus Lyncodon,(1) and is one of the least known mustelids in South America. Very little is known about this species, but it can be found in both southern Argentina and southeastern Chile. It inhabits herbaceous and shrub steppes in arid and semiarid areas.(2)(3)(4)(5)

Similar to the regional greater grison and tayra, the Patagonian weasel has been reported to be kept as a trained pet by some locals to hunt and trap small terrestrial animals; mainly rodents.(6)

Appearance

Size: 30–35 cm / 12–14 in (males)
Weight: 225 g / 7,93 oz (males)
Lifespan: Not reported.
Range: Southern Argentina and southeastern Chile.
Conservation status: Least concern
References

  1. Wilson, Don E., and DeeAnn M. Reeder, eds. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Vol. 1. JHU Press, 2005.
  2. Larivière, S., and A. P. Jennings. “Mustelidae (weasels and relatives).” Handbook of the mammals of the world 1 (2009): 564-656.
  3. Osgood, Wilfred Hudson. The mammals of Chile. Field Museum of Natural History, 1943.
  4. Prevosti, F. J., and U. F. J. Pardiñas. “Variaciones corológicas de Lyncodon patagonicus (Carnivora, Mustelidae) durante el Cuaternario.” Mastozoología Neotropical 8.1 (2001): 21-39.
  5. Schiaffini, Mauro I., et al. “Distribution of Lyncodon patagonicus (Carnivora, Mustelidae): changes from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present.” Journal of Mammalogy 94.2 (2013): 339-350.
  6. Nowak, Ronald M., and Ernest Pillsbury Walker. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Vol. 1. JHU press, 1999.

(8) Saharan Striped Polecat (Ictonyx libycus)

Photo credit unknown.

The Saharan striped polecat, also known as the Saharan striped weasel, Libyan striped weasel, and the North African striped weasel is a mustelid of northern Africa.(1) The taxonomy of its genus is controversial: Poecilictis, a sister genus, is often considered under Ictonyx. The number of species included in Ictonyx is also controversial. In the past, as few as 1 (Ellerman et al. 1953) and as many as 3 (Shortridge 1934) or 4 (Roberts 1951) species were recognized.(2)

Appearance

The Saharan striped polecat is sometimes confused with the striped polecat, though it is usually smaller and has as a circular white mask, compared to the striped polecat’s three white facial spots. They have glossy, coarse black fur on their legs, paws and underside, with ears are black with white tips. Four broad white stripes extend down the body from the top of the head to the tip of the tail.(3)

Diet and behaviour

The Saharan striped polecat is found on the margins of deserts especially in mountains, in arid stony terrain and sandy semideserts. It prefers steppe-like habitats, and is rarely seen in woodlands.(4) It’s diet consists of eggs, small birds, small mammals, and lizards.(2) The Saharan striped polecat uses it’s keen sense of smell to track its prey living in burrows, digging them out and then quickly pouncing when pursuing their prey.(4)

Size: 55–70 cm / 21.5–27.5 in (males)
Weight: 500–750 g / 17.5–26 oz (males)
Lifespan: 5–10 years
Range: Northern and southern edges of the Sahara Mauritania, Western Sahara and Morocco in the west along the Mediterranean littoral of North Africa to the Nile Valley in Egypt, while in the south its range is the Sahel east to Sudan and Djibouti.
Conservation status: Least concern
References

  1. Newman, C., C. D. Buesching, and J. O. Wolff. “The function of facial masks in” midguild” carnivores.” Oikos 108.3 (2005): 623-633.
  2. Larivière, Serge. “Ictonyx striatus.” Mammalian species 2002.698 (5 July 2002): 1-5.
  3. Hoath, Richard. A field guide to the mammals of Egypt. American Univ in Cairo Press, 2009.
  4. Kingdon, Jonathan. The Kingdon field guide to African mammals. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

(9) Striped Polecat / Zorilla (Ictonyx striatus)

Photo credit unknown.

The striped polecat, also known as the African polecat, zorillazoril, zorilleCape polecat, and African skunk (despite not being a skunk), lives in diverse dry and arid climates from central to southern Africa. Despite their appearance and anal spray defense mechanism, they are not skunks. In fact, skunks tend to be incorrectly called polecats because of their similar appearance to the striped polecat.

Appearance

Unlike skunks, striped polecats have three white spots on the head, and four distinct stripes along the length of their bodies to the tips of their tail.(1)

Diet and behaviour

One of the main differences between a striped polecat and a skunk, is skunks are omnivores, while the striped polecat is carnivorous. Striped polecats consume insects, lizards, snakes and centipedes, but its main diet consists of rodents.(2) The striped polecat is a solitary, aggressive and territorial animal – mainly associating with other members of its species for the purpose of mating. They are nocturnal animals,(3) and spend most of their time on the ground and live in the burrows that they dig, but often sleep in hollow trees or rock crevices. When threatened, they spray a foul odor from their anal glands.(2) It is believed that the striped polecat’s spray may be more potent than that of the skunk’s.

Size: 60–70 cm / 24–28 in (males, including tail)
Weight: 681–1460 g / 1.5–3 lb (males), 596–880 g / 1.3–2 lb (females)
Lifespan: Not reported.
Range: South Africa, to as far north as Central Africa.
Conservation status: Least concern
References

  1. Hoath, Richard. A field guide to the mammals of Egypt. American Univ in Cairo Press, 2009.
  2. Estes, Richard. The behavior guide to African mammals. Vol. 64. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
  3. Walker, Clive. Signs of the Wild. Struik, 1996.

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