Colombian weasel (
Mustela felipei), also known as the Don Felipe's
weasel, is a very rare species of weasel only known with certainty
from the departments of Huila and Cauca in Colombia and nearby
Ecuador (where only known from a single specimen). Both
its scientific and alternative common name honours the mammalogist
Philip "Don Felipe" Hershkovitz.
It appears to be largely restricted to riparian habitats at an
altitude of 1,100 to 2,700 m (3,600 to 8,900 ft). There is
extensive deforestation within its limited distribution within the
northern Andes of
Colombia and Ecuador, and with less than ten known
specimens, it is probably the rarest carnivoran in South
America. It is considered vulnerable by the IUCN.
It is the second smallest living carnivore on average, being only
slightly larger than the least weasel (
Mustela nivalis) and slightly
smaller than the ermine or stoat (M. erminea). The upperparts and
tail are blackish-brown, while the underparts are orange-buff.
1 Geographic range
3 Physical appearance
5 Conservation status
M. felipei is one of the least studied carnivore species in the
Americas, and is expected to maintain a larger geographical range that
currently known. Reports of sightings have placed M. felipei in the
mountain ranges of western
Colombia to northern Ecuador. M. felipei
was originally thought to be endemic to
Colombia however recent
specimens have been collected in
Ecuador that have since proven this
thought wrong. Distribution and habitat modeling surveys have been
able to predict that M. felipei is distributed between 20 protected
areas in Colombia, and 14 in
Ecuador along with three previously known
locations in both countries, the majority of these locations lie in
protected areas of the forest.
From geographic modeling, and collected specimens it has been
Mustela felipei lives in largely riparian habitats,
primarily staying close to rivers, streams, and along the shorelines
of other natural water sources. Since this habitat lies in an
elevation range of 1,100 to 2,700 m (3,600 to 8,900 ft) it
is classified as being in a "cloud forest" consisting of 100% humidity
adding to the riparian habitat.
M. felipei has an elongated body with an average length of 22 cm
(8.7 in), and a tail 11.5 cm (4.5 in) long. Weight
ranges between 120 and 150 g (4.2 and 5.3 oz). M. felipei
has a dark dorsal color with no variation, ventrally the weasel has a
light orange color with gradual fading of color up to the head. Hair
color from the tail to the nose is uniform with no striping or
spotting. M. felipei has an inflated auditory bulla located near the
dorsal midline on the body, along with a wide mesopterygoid fossa. The
soles of the feet lack any fur, and extensive webbing is located on
the second, third, and fourth digits, suggesting a semi-aquatic
M. felipei is a carnivorous mammal that preys primarily on fish, other
small aquatic animals, and small terrestrial mammals. Hunting is aided
by the use of webbed feet and camouflaged fur.
Mustela felipei has been recognized by the
IUCN as being vulnerable
and having a decreasing population. However, due to rarity of
sighting, and deforestation of known habitat it remains unclear as to
the true numbers of individuals that make up the population.
^ a b c d e Emmons, L. & Helgen, K. (2008). "
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union
for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database
entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of
^ Eisenberg, John Frederick; Redford, Kent Hubbard (1999). Mammals of
the Neotropics: The Central Neotropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia,
Brazil. 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 624.
^ Izor, R. J.; L. de la Torre (1978). "A New Species of Weasel
(Mustela) from the Highlands of Colombia, with Comments on the
Evolution and Distribution of South American Weasels". Journal of
Mammalogy. 59 (1): 92–102. doi:10.2307/1379878.
^ a b Novak, R. M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th edition.
Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9
^ Carnivores of the World by Dr. Luke Hunter. Princeton University
Press (2011), ISBN 9780691152288
^ Chaves, Héctor E. Ramírez; Bruce D. Patterson (2014). "Mustela
felipei (Carnivora: Mustelidae)" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 46 (906):
Izor, R. J. and N. E. Peterson. 1985. Notes on South American weasels.
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habitat modelling for Colombian
Mustela felipei in the Northern
Andes." Small Carnivore Conservation 41 (2009): 41-45.
MARTÍNEZ-ARIAS, Víctor M. "Has Colombian
Mustela felipei been
overlooked in collections? Héctor E. RAMÍREZ-CHAVES1." Small
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Mustela felipei in
Colombia and Ecuador." Small Carnivore
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