What’s the world’s smallest carnivore?

BBC Wildlife section editor Sarah McPherson answers your wild question.

Weasel. © Miles Thorne/EyeEm/Getty

Britain’s tiniest meat-eater is also the world’s smallest carnivore. An adult least weasel (simply called the ‘weasel’ in the UK, or Mustela nivalis scientifically) grows no longer than 26cm, and the smallest can weigh as little as 25g – just 0.0025 per cent of the heft of the largest creatures in the order Carnivora, polar and Kodiak bears, weighing up to 1,000kg.


Its stature is the reason why it’s such an efficient predator – with a large surface-area-to-weight ratio, it must eat a third of its own weight daily, entering the burrows of rodents and rabbits to take prey several times larger than itself with a fatal bite to the neck.

Least weasel (Mustela nivalis)
Least weasel. © Zahoor Salmi/Getty

Widespread on mainland Britain, the species is also found in Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa, and has been introduced elsewhere. In most of its range, though not Britain, its coat turns white in winter.

Not many people know the difference between a stoat and a weasel, and they do look pretty similar at first glance.

But if you want to go beyond the classic, “Weasels are weasily recognisable and stoats are stoatally different”, we’ve got everything you need to know right here:

How to tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel

Photo of a stoat. © Nature Picture Library/Getty

Stoat (Mustela erminea) showing off its characteristic black-tipped tail

Do you have a wildlife question you’d like answered? Email your question to wildquestions@immediate.co.uk or post it to Q&A, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, 2nd Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol, BS1 3BN