Egyptian weasel (Mustela subpalmata)

GenusMustela (1)
SizeMale head-body length: 36.1 - 43 cm (2)
Female head-body length: 32.6 - 39 cm (2)
Male tail length: 10.9 - 12.9 cm (2)
Female tail length: 9.4 - 11 cm (2)
Male weight: 60 - 130 g (2)
Female weight: 45 - 60 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Egyptian weasel, together with its more common cousin, the least weasel (Mustela nivalis), is considered to be the smallest carnivore in the world (3). So similar are the Egyptian weasel and the least weasel that it was only recently, in 1992, that the two were determined to be separate species (4). The Egyptian weasel is a slender, long, nocturnal carnivore with small legs. It has a small head and ears, and a broad snout. The upperparts of the body are chestnut to dark brown and the underparts tend to be creamy to white, sometimes patterned with brown spots. The tail is long and thin (around a quarter of the total length of the animal) and, unlike the rest of the body, is uniformly brown (2). It is quite a vocal animal, producing a variety of snorts, yelps and whines (2).  

The Egyptian weasel is, as its name suggests, endemic to Egypt. Its range extends from Port Said and Alexandria in the north to Cairo and Faiyum in the south (2).

The Egyptian weasel inhabits the same areas as humans, including cities, villages and agricultural areas (1) (2).

Although a mostly nocturnal animal, the Egyptian weasel is also often seen in the day (2). While it has excellent eyesight and hearing, this weasel mainly utilises its acute sense of smell when foraging, as it hunts for a variety of small rodents, insects, fish and birds (2) (5). As an occupant of many human habitations, it will also scavenge in human refuse (2).

The Egyptian weasel male is territorial and solitary, marking the borders of its territory with urine and faeces. A female may live within the territory of a male, where she will construct a nest in a cavity, wall crevice or pile of rocks. The female gives birth to litters of between four and nine young, and can do so up to three times a year (2).

This species is not currently known to be facing any significant threats (1).

As a common species, lacking any major threats, conservation actions are deemed to be unnecessary for the Egyptian weasel at this time (1).

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  3. Hoath, R. (2009)  The Weasel. The American University in Cairo Biology Club, Cairo. Available at:
  4. Dejong, C.G.V. (1992) A morphometric analysis of cranial variation in Holarctic weasels (Mustela nivalis). Zeitschrift für Saugetierkunde, 57(2): 77-93.
  5. Nowak, R.M. (2005) Walker’s Carnivores of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.