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Wild Animals/mammal identification


QUESTION: I found a small mammal that one of my dogs or cat brought to my doorstep. I was very sad, as this is the second time in several years I have seen one of these critters. I can't identify it by the online sources I have found. I live in Western North Carolina, at about 4,000 ft elevation. This animal looks like a very small weasel, about the size of a boomer squirrel. The body is very long and slender, as is its head and nose. It has a beautiful lemony yellow underbelly. Is this a native species to here or has it possibly been introduced from another part of the world?

ANSWER: Dear Melanie

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

There are two species of weasel-like mammal living in North Carolina that resemble the animal you saw. The least weasel has white underparts, but the whitish undrparts of the long-tailed weasel are tinged with yellowish or buffy brown fur. I think that the animal you saw is probably a long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata). has more information about this species.

All the best

Jonathan Wright

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi again. Thank you for your response. I had looked at photos of the least weasel before I sent in my question here. It's similar, for sure, but this little guy I saw had a VERY yellow tummy. Honestly, as yellow as a post it note, not a manilla folder. Not tinged or buff. Solid yellow. Like the color I saw on a few photos of Asian yellow bellied weasels. Have NC species been seen with this?


Dear Melanie

Thank you for your follow up question. Please have a look at some photos of long-tailed weasels. I did a quick look at Google Images and some of the photos do show a very attractive yellow underside. I think it is unlikely that you saw an Asian yellow-bellied weasel, although if you still have the weasel, perhaps it would be worthwhile taking it to a museum for full identification.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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