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What Does an Ermine Eat?

The ermine (Mustela erminea) is a solitary and nocturnal weasel that is also called the short-tailed weasel and stoat. These nimble creatures live throughout Eurasia, in northern regions of the United States and in many parts of Canada. As far as diet goes, ermines are carnivores through and through.

Ermine Background Information

These small and lithe animals are common in both montane and boreal forests. They also frequently reside in marsh, woodland and alpine meadow environments. Ermines often take up residence in close proximity to rivers. Male ermines are significantly bigger than the females. Their coats are generally yellowish-brown to standard brown in coloration during the summer months. In the winter, however, their coats are white. Martens, badgers, foxes, hawks, raptors and owls are some of the main predators to the species.

Basic Diet of the Ermine

Ermines consume carnivorous diets, and generally eat smaller sized mammals, although they occasionally also dine on other things. Upwards of 80 percent of their total dietary intake comes from these little mammals, however. Some basic components of the ermine diet are squirrels, lemmings, rats, shrews, chipmunks, mice, hares, voles and rabbits. When sustenance is scant, ermines also sometimes eat decaying carcasses -- carrion. Female ermines typically consumer smaller prey items than the males.

Other Ermine Dietary Components

To a lesser degree, these night hunting animals also occasionally consume worms, frogs, fish, reptiles, eggs, tiny birds and bugs -- think grasshoppers and beetles. Ermines usually eat these types of foods when there simply aren't enough mammals available. They are very opportunistic when it comes to looking for nourishment -- definitely not choosy eaters in any way.

Food Storage

Because ermines have naturally thin physiques and rapid metabolisms, it is crucial for them to consume sustenance frequently and on a regular, consistent basis. To accommodate this, they frequently tuck away food to eat at later times, which is especially important for the wintertime. When ermines go after prey, they have a habit of getting more than they can consume in one single sitting. Whatever "extra" they can manage to get, they generally store away.