Credit: Steven Hint


  • Common names: Ermine
  • Scientific names: Mustela erminea
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Mustelidae

Also known as

Stoat, Short-tailed Weasel

Viewing opportunities

  • Ermines are rarely seen because they primarily hunt at night. Occasionally they are seen hunting around houses or bird feeders, where they can effectively control mouse and vole populations.
  • Ermine is distinguished from its smaller cousin, the Least Weasel, by its size and the black tip of its tail.


  • Long, weasel-shaped body.
  • Short legs and fur, small ears and long, sensitive whiskers.
  • Completely white fur in winter and brown fur (with yellowish white underside) in summer
  • Black-tipped tail in both summer and winter.
  • Males are up to 50% larger than females.

Fast facts

  • Length: 30 cm
  • Weight: 36 – 206 g
  • Habitat: Boreal Forest, Arctic Tundra
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Predators: Hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes, larger members of the weasel family

Conservation status

What is conservation status?

  • Yukon: S5 (Secure)
  • Global: G5 (Secure)

Yukon population estimate

Not determined.


Ermine are solitary carnivores with long slender bodies that are well adapted to moving through dense vegetation, debris and underground burrows. They can effectively hunt small prey living under snow in winter, such as mice and voles, because they are able to access snow tunnels. Ermines are always on the hunt; their very high metabolic rate means they must eat often to survive. Ermines cache any leftover food to help meet their constantly high energy demands.


Small rodents, particularly voles and mice; shrews, hares, birds, eggs, frogs and insects.


Ermine distribution map.

Sights and sounds

Ermine track, front.
Ermine track, front: 1.3 x 1.5 cm.

Ermine and people

  • Ermine fur is used both locally for parka and slipper trim and exported to Europe where it is dyed and made into jackets and coats.