When the topic of Alaska Wildlife comes up, pictures of moose, bear, and caribou probably come to mind. But Alaska is also home to a variety of smaller animals and this next series of blogs will highlight a few of the many tinier mammals that live up here. The focus will be on those little critters that inhabit the tundra of interior Alaska, including the area around Denali National Park. First up: The Ermine
Isn’t this just the sweetest-looking animal? The ermine may look cute and cuddly, but this little carnivore is such a ferocious hunter it can take down a snowshoe hare that is more than twice its size and it can do it alone. The ermine is a small carnivore in the weasel family, related to otters, minks and wolverines. It’s a tiny animal, averaging 7-14 inches in length and it weighs less than a pound. It is a solitary animal, coming together only to mate. It lives in burrows that it builds in rock crevices, in between tree roots and in the holes of trees. It does not hibernate, so the white coat provides excellent cover when it is out hunting in the snow. Both of the pictures are ermines, the brown is the summer coat. In addition to hares, it also preys on smaller mammals like shrews and mice and will also occasionally eat birds, eggs and insects.