Public Asked to Share Weasel and Mink Sightings
FWC biologists want to know more about weasels and mink in Florida, and they’re asking the public to help them gather information. Both species appear to be quite rare in Florida, and their secretive nature makes them very difficult to study. Because of these challenges, biologists know little about their distribution and abundance in the state. Long-tailed weasels are typically found in a wide variety of habitats like forests and prairies but are usually found in close proximity to water bodies. Mink are semi-aquatic animals common in salt marshes and freshwater marshes.
To improve our understanding of these species and gather better data, the FWC launched a Web-based reporting system that allows citizens and visitors of Florida to share weasel and mink sightings with biologists.
This reporting system has a Google Maps tool that helps citizens easily locate and mark sightings by species, as well as a comments field in which users can share notes on behavior and habitat use. Those who are lucky enough to snap pictures of one of these elusive critters can also attach photos to their reports.
The FWC would like to thank everyone who has submitted a report for their contributions to wildlife research and encourages citizens to keep a watchful eye for these notoriously shy animals. The more information citizens share through the reporting system, the better biologists will be able to evaluate the status of weasels and mink in Florida.
If you see a weasel or mink in Florida, please share your sighting in the FWC’s online reporting system. If you have questions about the reporting system or general inquiries about weasel and mink or associated research, please contact FWC wildlife biologist Lisa Smith at weasels@MyFWC.com.
What do weasels and mink look like?
Both weasels and mink belong to the mustelid family, which are carnivorous mammals that vary greatly in size and behavior, but are typically distinguishable by their elongated bodies, short legs, and small, round ears.
Long-tailed weasels are mostly brown with a buffy or yellowish neck, throat, and underside. Long-tailed weasels have a black tipped tail and may have white markings on the face. Weasels have a body length of about 9-12 inches, not including the tail, or are roughly the size of a tube of 3 tennis balls.
Photo credit: Patty Pickett (left) and Jeffrey Offermann (right).
Mink are slightly larger than weasels with a more uniform dark brown coloring, and have a long sleek body, thick tail, small ears and small eyes. With a body length of 12 to 16 inches, not including the tail, mink can weigh up to 4 pounds as adults, and may have a small patch of white along the chin and throat. Mink are sometimes confused with otters, but otters are much larger in size, weighing 10 to 30 pounds, with a blunted nose and tail that is thick at the base and tapers.
Photo credit: Heather England (left) and George Gentry, USFWS (right)
Florida is home to 3 mustelid species, the long-tailed weasel, the American mink, and the river otter, all of which have a similar brown coloration and body shape. One quick way to help you determine which species you’ve seen is size. Long-tailed weasels are the smallest of the three mustelids. Mink are slightly larger than a weasel and slightly smaller than a cat. The river otter is the largest of these three species and is more than twice as large as a mink.
Where can you find weasels and mink?
The distribution of long-tailed weasels is not well documented in Florida. Long-tailed weasels have historically been found in areas where there are large tracts of undisturbed forest habitat, including Ocala National Forest, Blackwater River State Forest, Osceola Wildlife Management Area, and the Apalachicola National Forest.
For reasons unknown, mink appear to be absent from the freshwater streams, rivers, and wetlands of central and northern Florida. In this part of the state, mink are more likely to be seen in salt marsh habitat along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. In southern Florida, mink can be found in the freshwater and saltwater marshes of the Everglades. Some known mink hotspots include salt-marsh areas near Fort Clinch State Park, Big Talbot Island State Parks, Cedar Key Scrub State Preserve and the forest of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.