The Haida ermine may look cute, but it’s a ferocious carnivore. But don’t worry – it’s not after you! One of the smallest members of the weasel family, it is thought that the Haida ermine’s ancestors were Short-tailed Weasels. When sea levels rose thousands of years ago during the last major glacial melt, the Haida ermine became isolated on the remote islands of Haida Gwaii off the northern coast of British Columbia. As a result, they became their own unique subspecies.
The petite Haida ermine are slender creatures between 17 and 33 centimetres long. They have a small face, long nose, oval ears and a furry tail. Their coat is chocolate brown but turns completely white each fall. The tip of the tail stays black year-round. They mark their territory with a strong musky odour that comes from their scent glands. Haida ermine aren’t fussy eaters; they will lunch on whatever they can find, including dusky shrews, Northwestern deer mice, rats, insects, earthworms and berries. They also grab ground and shrub-nesting birds and their eggs. They occasionally eat fish.
Haida ermine may be found in or around Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. Parks Canada works with local communities, Aboriginal groups, and visitors to put into action a law called the Species at Risk Act, with the goal of protecting and recovering species in our national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.