Mammals of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Least Weasel - Mustela nivalis
Mustelidae Members:
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Distribution In NC it is strictly found in our mountains. Even so, records are known down to 1,600 feet (Lee et al. 1982); thus, it is not a resident of just the higher mountains in the state.

Occurs over most of Canada and Alaska, southward only to the northern 48 states. The range does extend southward into most of the Appalachians.
Abundance One of the most poorly known mammals in the state, with fewer than 20 records known. Thus, it is presumed to be rare south to Jackson County; might be absent in counties west of Jackson, though it ought to occur in Macon and Swain counties. There has been a handful of recent records for Buncombe County, though this may be correlated with the much greater human population there than in other mountain counties (for spotting and photographing these secretive animals).
Seasonal Occurrence Occurs year-round.
Habitat Mostly in open, upland areas, such as fields and brushy places, and wooded borders/edges; perhaps also in marshes or bogs. Not typically found in extensive or deep forests.
Behavior The Least Weasel is a very active and agile mammal, quickly darting into cavities and tunnels and other crevices. It is apparently mostly nocturnal, though weasels can be active during the day. Because of their very small size, they are very secretive, and few people have seen a live Least Weasel in the state.
Comments This species is probably undergoing a decline in the state, as there have been few records in the past 20 years. Though habitat loss is not likely a problem, the increase in its predators, such as foxes and Coyotes, may be at least partly responsible for its scarcity now. It is certainly rare enough to be State listed as Special Concern or possibly Threatened, but as it is a furbearer species, it cannot legally be State listed, and thus it continues to be tracked as just Significantly Rare by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program.
Origin Native
NC List Official
State Rank S2
State Status SR
Global Rank G5
Federal Status
subspecies Mustela nivalis rixosa
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all database records for species in that county.