Wildlife in Italy: Donnola Mustela nivalis L.

Wildlife in Italy: Donnola Mustela nivalis L.

Systematic classification and distribution

Class: Mammals
Order: Carnivores
Family: Weasel
Kind: Mustela
Species: nivalis

The Weasel is a very common species throughout Europe with the exception of Ireland and Iceland. In Italy it is practically present on the whole peninsula, with the exception of the smaller islands.

Weasel - Mustela nivalis L. (photo

Weasel (photo Keven Law)

Distinctive characters

Length: head-body 11-31.5 cm; tail: 3-12.5 cm
Weight: significantly larger and heavier males; males 40-200 grams; females 28-110 grams.
The typical teeth of the Mustela genus, with premolars not capable of cutting. It is the smallest mustelid, has brown back, head and tail while the ventral part is yellowish white. In mountain or very cold areas it assumes a completely white winter coat; stands out well from Ermine for the presence of a black spot on the tip of the tail.


The habitat of Donnola is very varied: plains, mountains, woods, crops, bushes, ruins.
However, the presence of water is very important. Of lonely and nocturnal habits, especially when hunting, it is also active during the day. He is capable of swimming and climbing. The nest is built in stacks of wood, or in hollow trunks, it is usually stuffed with straw, fur, vegetable substances etc. Sexual maturity is reached around 9 months and the mating period is in March-April. Gestation lasts 34-37 days; the young per brood range from 2 to 7; the puppies open their eyes at 25 days and are weaned after about 4 weeks. Under favorable conditions, the Weasel can have two annual parts and the average life is around 3 years in nature and 10 years in captivity.
The hunting territory is 6-7 ha wide and is assiduously defended against their fellowmen with sometimes fatal fights. During the mating season male and female defend their territory attacking without hesitation anyone who endangers the life of puppies, including man. Although the Weasel is the smallest of the mustelids, it is considered to be one of the bloodiest species; attaches its victims to the nape of the neck, or to the throat, allowing itself to be dragged until death occurs. Like the Ermine, the Weasel often kills animals bigger than her (Hare, Rabbits, Birds etc.) but does not disdain Mice, Rats, Amphibians and Reptiles.

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