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Posts Tagged ‘Steppe Polecat’

This mustelid is a Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica). Its range includes a huge chunk of Eurasia, and it is called the Siberian weasel because Westerners knew the species from Russian specimens. However, its vast range goes from European Russia all the way to Taiwan.

Its fur is marketed as “kolinsky sable,” and if you buy a brush that is said to come from a kolinsky sable, you are actually purchasing a brush tipped in the winter fur of this animal. In Russian, the animal’s name is “kolonok,” but it is easier for us to say Siberian weasel, even if its range is much more extensive than Siberia.

Although it looks very similar to the steppe polecat, it is not the same thing.  The two species share a range, but the steppe polecat is darker. The Siberian weasel is always this apricot color.

It’s a very attractive color for a weasel, and it sort of reminds me of some races of the long-tailed weasel. In the Southwestern US, the long-tailed weasels are masked. In my area, the local variant of the long-tailed weasel is unmasked, and it turns white in the winter.

When I saw a video of the Siberian weasel, I was much more reminded of the long-tailed weasel than any species of ferret or polecat. Here’s a playful Siberian weasel versus a pet ferret:

Source.

These animals are widely bred on fur farms, so my guess is that they are probably not far from being available on the pet market. I doubt that they are as domesticated as ferrets are.

However, the movement is so similar to the long-tailed weasel that I can’t help but be intrigued by this species.

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Of course, I am a bit biased here, for my the weasel family has always fascinated me. They are as intelligent as dogs and cats, yet most of them are quite tiny in comparison.

Indeed, they have so fascinated me that I have the body of a long-tailed weasel in my freezer. It was shot in late October– just when its fur was turning from brown to white. I wanted to have it taxidermied, but I never got around to it.

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The Chinese have the coolest name for the Siberian weasel.

It is huang shu lang, which means “yellow rat wolf.”

What a name!

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The DNA evidence presented at the “find of the century” Bigfoot press conference today was quite hilarious. The findings showed that the three samples of DNA were an opossum (Incorrectly called a “possum” here. Possums live in Australia, while opossums live in the Americans), a human, and one that cannot be tested “because of technical problems.”  Meanwhile, a Halloween costume sits in a freezer in Georgia, while the bigfoot hunters presented their evidence in California. I guess if everyone saw the body, they’d know it’s just a Halloween costume covered in mud with some chitlins on top of it.

People wonder why there are bigfoot enthusiasts. I can answer this simply. People like spending time in nature. We will go out of our way to enjoy just a little time in the natural world. At least most of us do, and those who don’t really should give it a chance. That’s why people hunt and fish, but when you tell your wife that you’re going hunting or fishing, she expects that you bring back something. That expectation disappears when you’re a bigfoot researcher. You can spend weekend after weekend in the forest, and no one will expect you to bring back a thing. Plus, we modern humans once coexisted with other apes, even other hominids, such as our close relatives, the neanderthals. We like to believe that somewhere in the remote corners of the world, there exists people or hominids who aren’t like us, who aren’t spoiled by the trappings of civilization.

I would like to believe in bigfoot, but scientific evidence is really lacking. This existence of such a species is unlikely. We know that North America has not had primates other than humans living here (at least in the past couple of million years). Only central and South America have primates. All ape species, except us, live in Africa or Southeast Asia. There are no ape species in Russia or China, although one large species of Ape lived in China. It was a knuckle-walker, not a biped. It was a vegetarian. It could not have survived in the tundra and icy conditions of Beringia, and it certainly could have never made its way into North America.

One species that actually did make it on both sides of the Bering Land Bridge were the two Steppe polecats. The Russian Steppe polecat and black-footed ferret are close relatives that really did cross the land bridge. The black-footed ferret evolved to live in prairie dog towns, but when the lands opened up for settlement, the prairie dogs were shot, trapped, and poisoned. The grasslands became croplands, and the open range became pasture. The ferret was exposed to canine distemper and sylvatic plague. Its numbers were reduced severely. In 1967, the ferret was declared endangered, but in 1974, it was thought to be extinct in the wild. Luckily, a population was discovered in 1981 near Meeteetse, Wyoming. However, this population soon suffered a distempter outbreak, and by 1986, only 18 individuals remained. Those 18 individuals eventually were captured and bred in captivity to save the species. Today, approximately 750 black-footed ferrets remain in the wild. If we’d spend one tiny fraction of the time and money on black-footed ferrets that we spend on supposed giant North American apes, this species would be in an even better position than it is today.

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