Species Profile

Ermine haidarum subspecies

Scientific Name: Mustela erminea haidarum
Other/Previous Names: Ermine (Queen Charlotte Islands population)
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2015
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: C2a(i)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation:

This genetically distinct subspecies of Ermine is known only from Haida Gwaii. The species appears to have declined to small population size due to habitat changes associated with the introduction of Black-tailed Deer, and possible competition for food with an increasing population of Pacific Marten. A comparison of results of recent, intensive sampling efforts with historical trapping records suggests a decline in numbers, and that the population is expected to continue to decline due to ongoing threats.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1984. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in May 2001 and May 2015.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Ermine haidarum subspecies

Ermine haidarum subspecies Photo 1

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Description

The Ermine is a small but ferocious carnivore. It is commonly called a Short-tailed Weasel or Stoat. It has a long and slender body, a small face, a furred tail, short oval ears, and scent glands which produce a strong musky odour. The tip of the tail is black at all times of the year. During the summer, the mammal is mostly chocolate brown, though the underparts, the under sides of the legs and the toes are white. During the winter, the Ermine is all white with a black tipped tail. The moult occurs twice a year, in the spring (late March and April), and in the autumn (late October and November). About nine subspecies of Ermine have been identified. In the Ermine haidarum subspecies the under side of the base of the tail has the same colouration as the belly. Males are almost twice the size of females; males measure 251 to 315 mm and weigh 67 to 106 g.

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Distribution and Population

Ermine occur everywhere in Canada except southeastern Saskatchewan and a few offshore islands. However, this subspecies is found only in the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. The Ermine haidarum subspecies appears to be very rare today: studies between 1992 and 1998 resulted in only 2 ermine captured. While no definitive data exist, success of early mammal collectors in capturing ermine in the early 1900’s suggests that populations of ermine were probably considerably larger then than they are now.

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Habitat

Ermine inhabit coniferous forests, tundra, marshes, meadows and woodlands. The Queen Charlotte Islands are characterized by moist conditions, rugged mountains, ancient wilderness, towering cedar and Sitka-spruce forests and fjords. Ermine haidarum subspecies use a variety of habitats, and not old growth forest particularly. This subspecies appears to prefer low elevation sites near ocean, rivers, creeks and estuaries.

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Biology

Female Ermine reach sexual maturity very quickly, at two to three months of age; males reach sexual maturity at one year of age. In general, ermines breed from May to July. Implantation of the egg in the uterus is delayed for nine months. The total 'gestation' period therefore lasts 10 to 11 months. Females give birth to one litter a year. Five to nine young make up a litter. Males are polygamous. Ermine are non-migratory. Their population levels fluctuate with those of their prey (primarily voles, but also some reptiles, amphibians and insects). Ermine are also adaptable. In Europe, for example, the species has survived all attempts at elimination through trapping.

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Threats

Potential factors limiting the Ermine haidarum subspecies include competition with marten, introduced Red Squirrels, Black Rats, Norway Rats and raccoons. However information suggests that predation by American Marten may be the most serious threat. Marten numbers have increased dramatically in response to the availability of introduced mammals as new prey items. Introduced Black-tailed Deer may have exacerbated marten predation risk by widespread removal of shrubs that may have previously served as cover for ermine. They are trapped for their valuable fur everywhere in Canada but the Queen Charlotte Islands, where trapping is illegal.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Ermine haidarum subspecies is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Ermine haidarum subspecies is protected by the Canada National Parks Act where it occurs in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. It is also protected by the British Columbia Wildlife Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill or poison any native terrestrial mammal without a permit.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Ermine haidarum subspecies (Mustela erminea haidarum) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Ermine (haidarum subspecies) Recovery Team

  • Berry Wijdeven - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 250-559-6245  Fax: 250-559-8342  Send Email

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Ermine haidarum subspecies (Mustela erminea haidarum) in Canada (2016-02-04)

    The Ermine, haidarum subspecies (Mustela erminea haidarum, hereafter ‘Haida Ermine’) is a subspecies of Ermine (Short-tailed Weasel). It has a typical weasel form, with a small face, short, oval ears, and a slender, elongated body with a furred, black-tipped tail. The summer pelage changes from reddish-brown upperparts and creamy-white lower parts to white in winter. The subspecific status of Haida Ermine is based on unique morphometric characters and is supported by genetic analyses. The Haida Ermine has been isolated from the mainland for approximately 11,000 years and is significant as evidence of the existence of a glacial refugium in the north Pacific coast, and one of four genetic clades of Ermine worldwide.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Ermine haidarum subspecies (2015-12-23)

    This genetically distinct subspecies of Ermine is known only from Haida Gwaii. The species appears to have declined to small population size due to habitat changes associated with the introduction of Black-tailed Deer, and possible competition for food with an increasing population of Pacific Marten. A comparison of results of recent, intensive sampling efforts with historical trapping records suggests a decline in numbers, and that the population is expected to continue to decline due to ongoing threats.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Ermine, haidarum subspecies (Mustela erminea haidarum), in Canada (2011-07-22)

    This federal Recovery Strategy for the Ermine, haidarum subspecies (Mustela ermine haidarum), in Canada has been produced based upon the Province of British Columbia’s Recovery Strategy for Ermine haidarum subspecies (Mustela ermine haidarum) in British Columbia. The federal text includes information to bring the Province of British Columbia’s recovery strategy into compliance with policies surrounding the Species at Risk Act. These changes include clarifications on the recovery goal and objectives, critical habitat and socio-economic considerations.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (2016-07-04)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2014-2015 (2015-11-20)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 1 Endangered: 21 Threatened: 11 Special Concern: 21 Data Deficient: 1 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#GH-2004-03), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2004-05-17)

    The objective of the research is to determine the presence and distribution of ermine within Gwaii Haanas using hair snares, remotely operated cameras and faeces collection. The analysis of hair collected for DNA may assist in providing an estimate of ermine population size and viability.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#GHE 2013-01), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2013-07-10)

    Rat eradication on Murchison and Faraday islands will be undertaken by an aerial broadcast of bait containing a brodifacoum rodenticide at a designated application rate across the two islands. Hand-broadcast of bait will also be required for smaller islets and where aerial broadcast is not appropriate or feasible. The project also requires the reduction of introduced hyperabundant Sitka Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) on the target islands prior to rat eradication implementation. Individuals of the following species, all listed under the Species at Risk Act, might be affected by the proposed activities: Northern Goshawk (laingi subspecies) (Threatened); Northern Saw-whet Owl (brooksi subspecies) (Threatened); and Ermine (haidarum subspecies - Queen Charlotte Islands population) (Threatened). Both bird species (Northern Goshawk and Northern Saw-whet Owl) are at risk of secondary poisoning resulting from predating / scavenging rats or passerines that have fed directly on the rodenticide bait
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