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