Your Florida Backyard NSiS Home Page Your Florida Backyard Mink & Weasel
This family (Mustelidae) includes minks, weasels, skunks, and otters. They are small to medium-sized. Their long tails are never banded.
 

 
The Mink, Mustela vison, is found in coastal habitats along the Gulf Coast south to Hernando County and along the Atlantic Coast south to Matanzas Inlet. It is glossy, blackish brown with a long (20-24"), slender body, short legs and a long (7-8") bushy tail. It has small rounded ears and a white chin.
 
It is active primarily at night, foraging for food in the water and along the banks. Diet consists of mammals, frogs, insects, birds, reptiles, and fish.
 
Breeding season is from late winter to spring. Litters of 3-4 kits are born about 50 days later.
 
** PROTECTED **
The Everglades Mink, Mustela vison evergladensis, is found in shallow freshwater marshes of the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. It is similar in appearance to the mink described below but a darker brown.
 
Its diet is primarily crayfish, fish, and small mammals.
 
There is evidence that the breeding season is from September to November.
 

 
** PROTECTED **
The River Otter, Lutra canadensis, is found in most freshwater habitats in the panhandle and peninsula. It is glossy brown with a paler or gray tan underside. It has an elongated 35-43" body with a long (12-16") muscular tail. It has a small, flattened head, small, rounded ears, short legs, and webbed toes.
 
It swims at about 6mph and can remain underwater 3-4 minutes. It tends to be nocturnal and lives in bank burrows under tree roots or in dense vegetation.
 
Diet is mainly fish and crayfish but may include turtles, frogs, snakes, salamanders, clams, birds, rodents, and fruit (such as hawthorn fruit). It caches food.
 
The river otter breeds in late summer or fall. The litter of 1-6 kits is born about 11 months later. They will stay with the mother about a year.
 
Predators are alligators and humans.
 

 
The Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis, also known as the "polecat", is found statewide except in the Keys. It is black with two white stripes down the back though the stripes vary from not being present to the entire back being white. It has a small head, short legs, and a plumed 8-14" tail. Its body length is 23-28".
 
The striped skunk has scent glands that can spray up to 15 feet. The smell can be detected as far as 1.5 miles away.
 
It is a slow-moving animal that seldom climbs. It can swim short distances. Usually solitary, it digs its own den or uses the den of an armadillo, fox, or gopher tortoise. During cold weather, it sleeps for extended periods of time.
 
An omnivore, it eats mostly insects, but also reptiles, amphibians, rodents, crayfish, birds, eggs, roots, nuts, seeds, fruit such as persimmons and grapes, grass, and mushrooms.
 
Breeding occurs once a year in the spring, with a litter of 2-10 kits born about 65 days later. The kits stay with the mother until late summer.
 
Its primary predator is the great horned owl which is oblivious to the skunk's spray.
 
It can carry rabies and leptospirosis.
 
The Eastern Spotted Skunk, Spilogale putoriur, is found in dry prairies, fields, and brush statewide except for the Keys. It is also commonly called "civet cat" and "weasel skunk". It is black with white spots and wide, wavy stripes, and a bushy 6-8" tail. It has small eyes and ears and short legs. There is a white spot on the forehead and in front of each ear. It is 16-21" long.
 
It has musk glands which can spray 12-15 feet. It does a series of handstands before spraying.
 
The Eastern spotted skunk is nocturnal, spending the daytime sleeping in an underground den. Dens are often dug under buildings, logs, woodpiles, and brush piles. It is an excellent climber.
 
An omnivore, it primarily eats insects but also reptiles, amphibians, rodents, birds, eggs, fish, roots, and nuts.
 
It breeds in late winter and may breed again in late summer. A litter of 2-9 kits are born after a gestation of about 60 days.
 
Primary predators are great horned owls and barred owls. Other predators include bobcats, foxes, coyotes, and dogs.
 
It may carry rabies and leptospirosis.
 

 
The Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata, is found in nonaquatic habitats statewide. It is rich dark brown with a white underside, a long (14-18") body, long neck, and a long (6-7"), black-tipped tail. It has a pointed nose and small eyes.
 
Diet consists primarily of rodents, reptiles, rabbits, frogs, and birds. They are especially fond of poultry.
 
While normally quite shy, a cornered weasel can become very aggressive.
 
The Southeastern Weasel, Mustela frenata olivacea, is found in northern Florida and the panhandle. It is chestnut brown with a yellowish white underside. The end of the tail is black.
 
It dens in hollow trees and burrows, including gopher tortoise and pocket gopher burrows.
 
Its diet is primarily rodents but includes other small animals.
 
One litter is born in late fall or early winter.
 
The Florida Weasel, Mustela frenata peninsulae, is found in a variety of habitats in central Florida. It is similar in all respects to the Southeastern Weasel, except slightly larger with coarser fur.
 

[ Mammal Index | Protected Mammals ]
Wildlife Menu
Your Florida BackyardBird MenuBook MenuButterfly MenuDisasters MenuGardening/Native Plants MenuPhoto GalleryWeather MenuWildlife MenuNS Menu

Copyright © 1997-2005  Marianne Cowley
All Rights Reserved