If you are in the market for a wild animal with a mind of its own, try an Ermine on for size.
Above the ground and through earthen burrows: the Ermine's muscular and agile body allows him to move swiftly about. This Weasel will often stop to scope out his territory by raising his head and standing upon his rear haunches, giving him an elevated scope of the landscape. The Ermines are ideal predators and tend to hunt in a zigzag pattern powered by a series of leaps and jumps that reach up to 50cm. They have keen senses that help them track their food: hares and rodents are followed by scent, insects by sound, and fish by sight. They are not afraid to go after their prey of choice-they will search through any crack, crevice, hole, and ravine. The Ermine typically eats small mammals such as mice, small rabbits, pikes, rats and squirrels. Some even eat porcupine! When mammals are scarce they have also been known to eat frogs, eggs, insects and fish. Due to their constant expenditure of energy, it is imperative to the Ermine's survival that he eats every day. Their population depends directly on the abundance of food available to them. They are known to travel 10 to 15km in one night, in search of this food. If conditions in an area are good, the Ermine usually occupy about a 10 square acre area; but can occupy as much as 20. Males have twice the home range as female Ermines, and both mark their boundaries by scent. Since males usually dominate the females and the young, it is not unusual for their territories to overlap those of the females'. Ermine are generally nocturnal creatures, though they are sometimes spotted during the day. Since Ermine Weasels are solitary animals the males and females only associate with one another during breeding season. The ermine is curious by nature and seems relatively unafraid of people, they have been known to attack those who release them from traps and scurry up the pant legs of an unsuspecting person to grab some food. In the wild the Ermine live in a variety of homes, some build dens, which can be found in empty buildings, in tree roots, or hollow logs. Others might use burrows that once belonged to ground squirrels or mice.
During the summer the Ermine has a dense brown coat with a cream colored underbelly. In the winters that follow, the Ermine's pelt changes to a solid white, leaving only a touch of brown at the tip of his tail, to remind him of warmer months. This change in color helps them to blend in with their scenery, better aiding them in their hunt for prey. They are carnivores, feeding mainly on small, warm-blooded vertebrates: rabbit size and smaller. The Ermine has a stereotypical weasel body, they have very long bodies and necks with short little legs and long tails. The Ermine is about 20 - 30 cm in length, and females do not reach adult size until at least six weeks post birth. Their adult weights will range from 48 to 258g. Strangely enough, however, they are able to breed as early as 60 to 70 days old, often before they are weaned. Females also tend to live longer than male Ermines in the wild, with the females making it through two breeding seasons, and males only through one. They are solitary animals, however, so if you have other pets the Ermine might not be for you.
The Ermine, also know as the Stoat or Short Tailed Weasel, is found in the Northern Temperate, and frigid sectors of Eurasia and North America. They prefer woodlands, marshes, shrubby fencerows, and open areas that borderline forests or largely dense shrubs. Ermine's have the ability to climb tree, swim, as well as burrow-making them extremely versatile animals. Their predators include foxes, badgers, martens, owls and other raptors, wolverines, coyote and domestic cats. They have also been hunted by man for their small fur skins.