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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Mammal    Species Name:
Mustela frenata
Original name is Mustela frenata Lichtenstein, 1831.

Common Name:
Long-tailed Weasel


Fort Mandan, North Dakota   November 9, 1804

The other white weasel

As with the ermine, the long-tailed weasel was mentioned just once in the journals.  The two weasels resemble one another a great deal, even down to the black tip on their tails, although the long-tailed weasel is slightly larger and sports a longer tail.  Also like the ermine, northern dwelling long-tailed weasels molt to a white coat during winter.

The most important difference between the two weasels is in their distribution.  While the two species overlap, the long-tailed weasel inhabits more southern areas and the ermine more northern lands.  Lewis would have been familiar with the long-tailed weasel as an inhabitant of Virginia, and yet, curiously, he sent back the one specimen he acquired from an Indian, perhaps because it was in a white, winter coat.

The white, winter fur of both weasels was important to Plains Indian dress.  Refer to Lewis' journal entry on the ermine page for a detailed description of the ermine in Lemhi Shoshone dress.

For more information about this North American mammal, click here.

Journal Entries:
Cpt. Clark, November 9, 1804--a verry hard frost this morning    we continue to build our Cabens, under many Disadvantages, Day ...  more>>

References Lichtenstein, Hinrich, Darstellung neuer oder wenig bekannter Saugethiere in Abbildungen und Beschreibungen : von funf und sechzig Arten auf funfzig colorirten Steindrucktafeln ... text:"Das gezäumte Wiesel" [not paginated], and plate 42., Berlin : bei C.G. Luderitz, 1831

see following caption

See following caption
long-tailed weasel

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