The stoat or short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea), also known as the ermine, is a mustelid native to Eurasia and North America. Because of its wide circumpolar distribution, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
The name ermine is used for species in the genus Mustela, especially the stoat, in its pure white winter coat, or the fur thereof.
In the late 19th century, it was introduced into New Zealand to control rabbits, where they have had a devastating effect on native bird populations. It was nominated as one of the world’s top 100 “worst invaders”.
Ermine luxury fur was used in the 15th century by Catholic monarchs, who sometimes used it as the mozzetta cape. It was also used in capes on images such as the Infant Jesus of Prague.
The stoat is entirely similar to the least weasel in general proportions, manner of posture, and movement, though the tail is relatively longer, always exceeding a third of the body length, though it is shorter than that of the long-tailed weasel. The stoat has an elongated neck, the head being set exceptionally far in front of the shoulders. The trunk is nearly cylindrical, and does not bulge at the abdomen. The greatest circumference of body is little more than half its length. The skull, although very similar to that of the least weasel, is relatively longer, with a narrower braincase. The projections of the skull and teeth are weakly developed, but stronger than those of the least weasel. The eyes are round, black and protrude slightly. The whiskers are brown or white in colour, and very long. The ears are short, rounded and lie almost flattened against the skull. The claws are not retractable, and are large in proportion to the digits. Each foot has five toes. The male stoat has a curved baculum with a proximal knob that increases in weight as it ages. Fat is deposited primarily along the spine and kidneys, then on gut mesenteries, under the limbs and around the shoulders. The stoat has four pairs of nipples, though they are visible only in females.
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