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Distribution of the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) in the Southeastern United States
- Linzey, Donald W., Hamed, M. Kevin
- Southeastern naturalist 2016 v.15 no.2 pp. 243-258
- Mustela, databases, dogs, pet ownership, scientists, trapping, universities, Appalachian region, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
- Mustela nivalis (Least Weasel) reaches the southernmost portion of its North American range in the Appalachian Mountains. Throughout its southern range, the Least Weasel is considered rare or uncommon. We suggest that the current designation might underestimate the population due to a lack of records and limited knowledge of its distribution. We compiled Least Weasel records from the 7 southern-most states (Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) in the Appalachian region. We searched museum/university collections, state agency databases, and contacted small colleges to locate specimens in teaching collections. Additionally, we implemented a citizen-science project to alert cat owners of the potential for cat-killed Least Weasel specimens and explained how to report these specimens. For all specimens, we attempted to determine the method of capture. The Least Weasel appears to be more abundant and widely distributed than previously documented. We identified 133 Least Weasel specimens; the greatest number (30) from Tennessee. For many states, we more than doubled the number of previous records. We determined a collection method for 83 specimens, the most common of which were cat and dog captures/kills (37% of specimens) and trapping (30%). Citizen scientists contributed 7 new records from eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. We feel this approach has the potential to discover many future specimens.