Long-tailed weasels range from the southern Canadian snows south through the United States and Mexico and into South America. They encounter a great variety of habitats and climates, and they range in size from much smaller to much larger than stoats in continental Eurasia. It would be a fair expectation that the small ones should concentrate on small rodents and the large ones kill bigger prey when they can, just as stoats do, but the data are rather sparse. In some samples, such as the one from Iowa (Figure 5.2f) and another (not included in Figure 5.2) from Michigan (Quick 1944), the pattern is the typical small weasel type—more than three quarters of the prey are small rodents. In other samples, the diet is more variable and more often includes medium-sized rodents such as ground squirrels, chipmunks, and rats, and also cottontails and shrews (Figure 5.2a, d, e).
Longtails also eat insects and carrion occasionally, as do stoats. Insects are not a staple food for longtails, nor even necessarily a reliable emergency resource, since insects are common only in summer when other foods are abundant. Two longtails were among the scavengers that approached 42 of 64 grouse carcasses set out and monitored by Bumann and Stauffer (2002). An unusual longtail report, but one that illustrates nicely the versatility of these predators, is of one that entered an Indiana barn in broad daylight and climbed into the rafters to a nursery colony of big brown bats. It ignored the farmer and killed three nursing female bats and their five young before the farmer shot it (Mumford 1969).
The range of long-tailed weasels extends into South America, but little is known of the tropical weasels. Longtails in Central and South America are believed also to prey mainly on small mammals, rabbits, birds, and their eggs.
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