The World's Worst Invasive Mammals
Animals as common as goats, deer, rabbits or mice can have a devastating effect on other wildlife
- By Jess Righthand
- Smithsonian.com, December 20, 2010
Short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea) (© Stone Nature Photography / Alamy)
They may look like furry friends, but short-tailed weasels (Mustela erminea, also known as stoats or ermine) can decimate mammal and bird populations. These intelligent, versatile predators can swim up to a mile in the ocean and can roam 40 miles at a time. They fearlessly attack larger animals and kill more than they can eat in one sitting, bringing in as much food as they can get their paws on.
In select cases like that of New Zealand, the weasel, a native of Eurasia and North America, has been introduced to exterminate smaller invasive mammals like rabbits. “They haven’t really killed the rabbits, but what they have done is become a major predator of native wildlife, particularly birds,” says Mick Clout, a conservation ecologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
The weasels feast on baby kiwis, New Zealand’s iconic bird, and they have contributed to the extinction of several other bird species. In response, Operation Nest Egg has set up kiwi nurseries that protect the chicks until they get big enough to protect themselves.