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Reproduction

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Although the mating system of M. altaica has not been described, other species of the genus are typically polygynous. Males are known to compete for access to females, and some of their fights can be severe. Based upon the large size dimorphism in M. altaica, it is reasonable to assume that the same mating system prevails.

Mating System: polygynous

According to observations in Kazakhstan, mating occurs in February or March. Young are seen at the beginning of May. Gestation lasts 30-49 days. The variablility reported for the length of gestation may be due to delayed implantation of fertilized eggs--a feature common in other members of the genus. Litters are 1-8 young. Lactation lasts 2 months, following which young begin to lead independent lives, but remain together with litter mates until fall.

Although the timing of reproductive maturity in this species has not been reported, it is likely that like other members of the genus, young are able to breed in the following season, when they are just under a year of age.

Breeding interval: These animals breed once annually.

Breeding season: Breeding in Kazakhstan occurs in February or March.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 8.

Range gestation period: 30 to 49 days.

Average weaning age: 2 months.

Average time to independence: 2 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous ; delayed implantation

Mustelids are born helpless, with eyes closed and fur not well developed. These altricial young are carred for in a burrow by the mother.

In M. altaica, the mother provides sole parental care. She nurses the young for approximately two months, at which time the young become independent.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Untitled

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Some populations of the mountain weasel are subject to extreme fluctuations, apparently depending on food conditions. Mass mortality may occur due to unknown diseases and fires.

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Behavior

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Communication has not been described for this species. However, as mustelids go, communication typically involves a variety of forms. Vocalizations are made when animals are threatened. Tactile communication occurs between rival males, between mates, and between a mother and her offspring. Chemical communication occurs in all of the stinky mustelids. There is probably also some visual communication, as these animals do have fairly good vision.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Conservation Status

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With several known subspecies, and a very broad range, these animals are not currently a conservation concern.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Benefits

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This species may occasionally attack domestic fowl when found near human habitation.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Benefits

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Mountain weasles are considered beneficial in agricultural areas because they exterminate rodents which can be agricultural pests. Some trade of fur occurs, but pelts have low trade value and thus are of not much commercial importance. The fur is usually dyed.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Associations

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As a predatory species, M. altaica probably plays an important role in regulating the populations of small mammals, such as mice and voles.

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Trophic Strategy

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Voles and pikas form a major portion of the mountain weasel's carnivorious diet. These animals may also capture muskrats, ground squirrels, young rabbits, small birds, lizards (during summer months), and to a lesser extent frogs, fish, and insects. M. altaica has also been observed to eat juniper berries in some regions. Observations in capativity suggest daily requirements of flesh are 45-54 g (3-4 domestic mice) in an adult male, though it may kill considerably more in the wild. When rodents abound, these animals are thought to eat only the blood and brain.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; blood; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Sanguivore , Insectivore )

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Distribution

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Mustela altaica is found in mountains of Asia, from Russian Central Asia to Korea to northern India.

Six subspecies have been described, each with a specific, more restricted range.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Habitat

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The mountain weasel lives chiefly in mountains at elevations up to 3,500 m or more. It may be found in mixed taiga, highland steppes, or above timberline among heaps of stones However, observations suggest this species may be able to live in a larger range of habitats (sand dunes, among reeds, etc). It may live near human habitations and nests in rock crevices, among tree roots, or in burrow of rodents.

Range elevation: 3500 (high) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; desert or dune ; forest ; mountains

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Life Expectancy

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Longevity hs not been reported for this species, but for similarly sized members of the genus Mustela, there is very little variation in longevity. These animals live between 7 and 10 years. It is reasonable to assume a simlilar lifespan for M. altaica.

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Morphology

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M. altaica generally resembles M. sibiricus but is smaller, with shorter fur, and a less luxuriant tail.

Males exhibit head and body length of 22 to 29 cm, with the tail adding 11 to 15 cm. Males can weigh from 217 to 350 g. Females measure 22 to 25 cm, with tails of 9 to 12 cm. They weigh from 122 to 220 g.

This species undergoes spring and autumn molts. The winter coat is dark yellowish to ruddy brown on the back, with pale yellow to creamy white on throat and belly. The upper head between the muzzle and ears is usually darker gray-brown. The tail may be more rufous than the back. the summer fur is gray to gray-brown with some light yellow. The lips of these weasles are white, and the chin has grayish-brown to whitish vibrissae.

Subspecies of M. altaica can be differentiated by fur color, which is generally a darker or lighter version of the colors described here.

Range mass: 122 to 350 g.

Range length: 217 to 287 mm.

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Associations

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Predators for these animals have not been reported. Mustelids in general are very fierce, and might not be a good choice of prey for terrestrial mammalian predators, which could expect these weasles to put up a good fight. Primary predators are probably avian, such as owls and hawks.

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Sherrill, E. 2002. "Mustela altaica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mustela_altaica.html
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Mountain weasel

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The mountain weasel (Mustela altaica), also known as the pale weasel, Altai weasel or solongoi, primarily lives in high-altitude environments, as well as rocky tundra and grassy woodlands.[2] This weasel rests in rock crevices, tree trunks, and abandoned burrows of other animals or the animals it previously hunted. The home range size of this animal is currently unknown. Geographical distribution for this species lies in parts of Asia from Kazakhstan, Tibet, and the Himalayas to Mongolia, northeastern China, and southern Siberia. The most common area for this species, however, is Ladakh, India. The conservation status, according to the IUCN, is near threatened because it is considered to be in significant decline and requires monitoring mainly because of habitat and resource loss.

Description

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Painting by A. N. Komarov.

Sexual dimorphism is slight in the Altai weasel.[3] The male body length from head to base of the tail is about 8.5–11 in (220–280 mm), with the tail adding about 4–6 in (100–150 mm). Males can weigh 8–12 oz (230–340 g).[3] Females are slightly smaller, with their head and body lengths measuring around 8.5–10 in (220–250 mm), with their tails adding 3.5–5 in (89–127 mm), and they weigh about 4–8 oz (110–230 g). This species undergoes seasonal molts during the spring and autumn. The summer coat consists of gray to gray-brown fur with some light yellow, while the winter fur is more of a dark yellow with some brown. In both coats, the underbelly is pale yellow to creamy white. The upper head between the muzzle and ears is usually darker gray-brown. The tail may be more rufous than the back. The summer fur is gray to gray-brown with some light yellow. The lips are white and the chin has grayish-brown vibrissae.[3]

Reproduction

Overall, these animals are thought to be solitary animals except when mating.[3] The mating system for these animals is unknown, but other species in the same genus are polygynous. Polygynous groups usually consist of one male and multiple females. The mountain weasel breeds once a year. Males fight vigorously for access to females. Mating usually occurs in February or March, and the young are usually born in May. The gestation period is 30–49 days, but these periods of gestation and birth can be altered because the animal is capable of delayed implantation; the female can breed and the egg is fertilized, but the egg does not attach to the endometrium in the uterus to continue pregnancy until resources are available to maintain the pregnancy and feed the young. The litter size is one to eight young. The offspring are born altricial, require nourishment and depend on the mother, their eyes are closed, and their fur is not well developed. Lactation lasts about two months, and after weaning, the young become independent but remain with their littermates until fall. Young are able to breed in the following season when they are just under a year of age.[3]

Behavior

The mountain weasel is capable of climbing, running, and swimming.[3] Their long bodies and short legs allow them to be very agile. Altai weasels are generally nocturnal, but may hunt during daylight. Although solitary, they communicate with each other visually and vocally. This animal has extremely good vision. They also communicate by sound to warn of possible predators, to protect their territories, and when mating. When threatened, they emit a loud chirring sound and excrete a foul, pungent odor from their anal glands.[4]

Food habits

The mountain weasels are strict carnivores; some other animals in the suborder Canifornia are omnivores. They primarily feed on pikas and voles; they have an important ecological role in reducing or limiting the population numbers of these rodents. Muskrats, rabbits, ground squirrels, small birds, lizards, frogs, fish, and insects are also found in their diet.[2]

Predation

Although no predators for this species have been reported, their main predators likely are large birds.[2] Some terrestrial predators could include wolves and foxes. However, the Altai weasel is a fierce animal, so most predators usually look elsewhere for easier prey. The average lifespan of this animal is about seven to 10 years.

Threats

Some threats causing the weasel to be considered near-threatened include habitat change, mainly caused by human development,[5] and other dangers, such as traffic on roads, which can reduce their population. Overgrazing by cattle, goats, and sheep causes the prey of the weasel to diminish because their hiding spots and food are reduced. Reduction in prey is also in part due to poisoning of its main food, the pika. The pika is considered a pest because it interferes with livestock feed. Poison also can kill the weasels when they consume poisoned pikas.

Conservation

The species is listed in appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wildlife fauna and flora. The category in which it is included consists of 45 species that are protected in at least one country which has asked for assistance in controlling the trade of that animal to safeguard resources for the future. The mountain weasel is also listed in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 in schedule II part II by the government of India, which states the animal receives absolute protection and offenders are prescribed the highest of penalties.Penalties may include three to seven years of imprisonment or a $25,000 fine.[6]

To initiate a plan to set a nature reserve, construction, staffing, access development, and research and monitoring of the species it intends to protect and preserve are required.[5] Sometimes, it is difficult to achieve all of these requirements. For example, nature preserves were proposed in China in the Yeniugou and Xiugou valleys. Unfortunately, the plans were denied by the authorities because they viewed it as an attempt to direct the government funds to Golmud, China where these valleys are located.[5]

However, a successful nature reserve includes the Altai weasel in Kazakhstan. The West Altai State Nature Reserve was created to preserve and protect the ecosystem of the mountains and Altai forests it surrounds. It is the biggest nature reserve in Kazakhstan, and includes about 52 species of mammals, including the Altai weasel and also the food of the weasel, the pika.[7]

Although no specific conservation strategy or program is dedicated to the Altai weasel, many other programs include it or it gains advantage. For example,the Kazakhstan nature reserve protects many different species. Also, programs that protect pikas and other small mammals also help protect the weasel; Sanjiangyuan, Changtang and Kekexili nature reserves in China are in this category. Another approach to conserving this animal would be to review conservation strategies of other species in the same genus. Population declines in Mustela lutrola, the European mink, are similar to the Altai weasel - primarily caused by habitat destruction, but also from diseases. A program was established in Russia to help conserve this species by captive breeding and reintroduction; the goal was to breed minks in captivity research stations.[8]

The animals were trained to swim, build dens, and hunt, then were reintroduced into the wild to live and reproduce. Transformation of captive-bred minks into a successful wildlife population did result in problems. The main problem is adaptation to captivity, which changes some behavioral and morphological characteristics of the animal, such as their lack of fear of predators. To fix this problem, minimizing the number of generations in captivity was recommended. They used cryopreservation of gametes and embryos. Using cryopreservation and recent cloning technologies are considerations for reproducing and reintroducing the minks into the wild to preserve the species population. This approach to conserving the species could also work for the Altai weasel. Another possible strategy could include putting aside passageways between grazing lands for the weasel to be able to pass through and between woodlands to capture its food without disturbing the grazing lands of the livestock. Being able to feed and interact with the domestic grazers would take cooperation and interest of the farmers.

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir it is list as an endangered species.[citation needed]

References

  1. ^ Abramov, A.; Wozencraft, C. & Ying-xiang, W. (2008). "Mustela altaica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em} Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of near threatened
  2. ^ a b c Allen,G.M. (1938). "Mammals of China and Mongolia". American Museum of Natural History. 1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f King, Carolyn (1989). The Natural History of Weasels and Stoats. Cornell University Press.
  4. ^ Stroganov, S. (1969). "Carnivorous Mammals of Siberia". IPST Press.
  5. ^ a b c Harris, R.B & Loggers (2004). "Status of Tibetan plateau mammals in Yeniugou,China". Wildlife Biology. 10: 91–99.
  6. ^ ""Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India. "The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972"". 1993.[dead link]
  7. ^ "West Altai State Nature Reserve". Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  8. ^ S Amstislavsky; H Lindeberg; J Aalto & MW Kennedy (2008). "Conservation of the European mink (Mustela lutreola): focus on reproduction and Reintroduction".[permanent dead link]


Extant Carnivora species
Suborder Feliformia
NandiniidaeNandinia Herpestidae
(Mongooses)Atilax Bdeogale Crossarchus Cynictis Dologale Galerella Helogale Herpestes Ichneumia Liberiictus Mungos Paracynictis Rhynchogale Suricata Hyaenidae
(Hyenas)Crocuta Hyaena Proteles Felidae
Large family listed below
Viverridae
Large family listed below
Eupleridae
Small family listed below
Family Felidae
FelinaeAcinonyx Caracal Catopuma Felis Leopardus Leptailurus Lynx Otocolobus Pardofelis Prionailurus Puma Herpailurus PantherinaePanthera Neofelis
Family Viverridae (includes Civets)
ParadoxurinaeArctictis Arctogalidia Macrogalidia Paguma Paradoxurus HemigalinaeChrotogale Cynogale Diplogale Hemigalus Prionodontinae
(Asiatic linsangs)Prionodon ViverrinaeCivettictis Genetta
(Genets) Poiana Viverra Viverricula
Family Eupleridae
EuplerinaeCryptoprocta Eupleres Fossa GalidiinaeGalidia Galidictis Mungotictis Salanoia
Suborder Caniformia (cont. below)
Ursidae
(Bears)Ailuropoda Helarctos Melursus Tremarctos Ursus MephitidaeConepatus
(Hog-nosed
skunks)
Mephitis Mydaus Spilogale
(Spotted skunks) ProcyonidaeBassaricyon
(Olingos) Bassariscus Nasua
(Coatis inclusive) Nasuella
(Coatis inclusive) Potos Procyon AiluridaeAilurus
Suborder Caniformia (cont. above)
Otariidae
(Eared seals)
(includes fur seals
and sea lions)

(Pinniped inclusive)Arctocephalus Callorhinus Eumetopias Neophoca Otaria Phocarctos Zalophus Odobenidae
(Pinniped inclusive)Odobenus Phocidae
(Earless seals)
(Pinniped inclusive)Cystophora Erignathus Halichoerus Histriophoca Hydrurga Leptonychotes Lobodon Mirounga
(Elephant seals) Monachus Ommatophoca Pagophilus Phoca Pusa Canidae
Large family listed below
Mustelidae
Large family listed below
Family Canidae (includes dogs)
Atelocynus Canis Cerdocyon Chrysocyon Cuon Lycalopex Lycaon Nyctereutes Otocyon Speothos Urocyon Vulpes
(Foxes)
Family Mustelidae
Lutrinae
(Otters)Aonyx Enhydra Hydrictis Lontra Lutra Lutrogale Pteronura Mustelinae
(including badgers)Arctonyx Eira Galictis Gulo Ictonyx Lyncodon Martes
(Martens) Pekania Meles Mellivora Melogale
(Ferret-badgers) Mustela
(Weasels and Ferrets) Neovison
(Minks) Poecilogale Taxidea Vormela
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Mountain weasel: Brief Summary

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The mountain weasel (Mustela altaica), also known as the pale weasel, Altai weasel or solongoi, primarily lives in high-altitude environments, as well as rocky tundra and grassy woodlands. This weasel rests in rock crevices, tree trunks, and abandoned burrows of other animals or the animals it previously hunted. The home range size of this animal is currently unknown. Geographical distribution for this species lies in parts of Asia from Kazakhstan, Tibet, and the Himalayas to Mongolia, northeastern China, and southern Siberia. The most common area for this species, however, is Ladakh, India. The conservation status, according to the IUCN, is near threatened because it is considered to be in significant decline and requires monitoring mainly because of habitat and resource loss.

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