The ermine lives in a multitude of different environments, wherever its main food source, small rodents, is available. In Finland ermines can be found throughout the country. The ermine does not avoid human habitation and may hunt for voles in barns and outbuildings. The usually solitary ermine can be active at any time of the day. The ermine preys mainly small rodents, but eats also birds’ eggs and little birds, frogs and lizards, even insects and berries. Ermines store their surplus prey for a rainy day.
The ermine is a game animal. In the earlier days the ermine was hunted for its beautiful fur. Nowadays there isn’t much demand for ermine fur, and yet ermines are hunted in abundance, about 2000–3000 individuals annually. Farmers and forest owners would though, benefit of favouring ermines on their land, as ermines control the destructive vole population.
ADAPTING TO THE WINTER
The northern ermine sheds its brown summer fur on its back in the fall for a white winter fur. Only the tip of its tail remains always black. At the same time the papillae on the pads of the paws grow thicker. The white ermine is not only well hidden from its predators on the snowy ground, but stays possibly out of sight of the birds of prey prowling up in the air also. The far smaller female ermine, in particular, can easily stay out of sight totally, by entering into the snow tunnels dug up by small rodents.
CLASS: Mammalia - mammals
ORDER: Carnivora- carnivores
FAMILY: Mustelidae - Mustelids
SIZE: Weight: 90-450g, length: 16-29cm + the length of tail 7-12cm, males much larger than females.
BREEDING: Heat: mostly in mid-summer, sometimes also in the autumn or even in the winter. Delayed fetogenesis; the embryo develops first a month before the litter is born in May-June; offspring 3-8 at a time. Independent in its first autumn, female reaches sexual maturity in its first summer, male in 10-12 months.
LIFESPAN: 4-7 years