Haida ermine

Haida ermine
Haida Ermine (Mustela haidarum).jpg
In winter coat

Imperiled (NatureServe)(haidarum)[1]

Vulnerable (NatureServe)(celenda and seclusa)[2][3]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Mustela
M. haidarum
Binomial name
Mustela haidarum
Preble, 1898

M. h. haidarum Preble, 1898
M. h. celenda Hall, 1944
M. h. seclusa Hall, 1944

  • Mustela erminea haidarum
  • Mustela erminea celenda
  • Mustela erminea seclusa
  • Neogale haidarum

The Haida ermine (Mustela haidarum) is a mustelid species endemic to a few islands off the Pacific Northwest of North America, namely Haida Gwaii in Canada and the southern Alexander Archipelago in the U.S. state of Alaska.[4]

Indigenous names[edit]

In the Haida language, this species is known as daayáats’ in its brown summer coat and tlag in its winter coat.[5]


The three subspecies comprising this species were originally considered subspecies of Mustela erminea, but in 2013 they were recognized as distinct from any other ermine, and a 2021 study found them to together comprise a distinct species. M. haidarum is thought have originated about 375,000 years ago (during the Pleistocene), and is thought to be a result of ancient hybrid speciation between the Beringian ermine (M. erminea) and American ermine (M. richardsonii). The islands are thought to been glacial refugia during the Last Glacial Maximum, with both species of ermine being isolated on the islands and hybridizing with one another while the ice sheets isolated them from the rest of the world, thus leading to the formation of a new species.[6][7][8][9] It is recognized as a distinct species by the American Society of Mammalogists.[4]


The species is found on a few islands off the coast of British Columbia and southeast Alaska. In Canada, it is found on the Haida Gwaii archipelago in Graham and Moresby islands, while in Alaska it is found on Prince of Wales Island and possibly Suemez Island.[6] It is found in a temperate rainforest habitat.


Aside from genetic differences, M. haidarum can be distinguished from M. erminea and M. richardsonii by its elongated skull.[9]


Three subspecies are thought to exist.[6]

Subspecies Trinomial authority Description Range Synonyms
Haida ermine (previously the Queen Charlotte Islands stoat or Haida stoat)[10]

M. h. haidarum

Preble, 1898 Smallest size of 20 ermine subspecies in North America. The colour of its summer coat is mostly chocolate brown. During the winter, the Ermine is all white with a black tipped tail, despite lesser snow coverage throughout lower elevations on Haida Gwaii.[11] Haida Gwaii Mustela erminea haidarum
Prince of Wales Island ermine

M. h. celenda

Hall, 1944 Prince of Wales Island Mustela erminea celenda
Suemez Island ermine

M. h. seclusa

Hall, 1944 Suemez Island Mustela erminea seculsa


The habitat for the Haida ermine has been intensively reduced over the past few centuries due to old-growth timber harvest in the Tongass National Forest, an important protected area for the species, as well as industrial-scale mining on the islands, which disproportionately affects insular endemics such as M. haidarum. Expanding human populations and increasing tourism may increase the risk of pathogen spillover to M. haidarum, including pathogens common to pets such as canine distemper and parvoviruses, which have negatively impacted other wild mustelids. Due to the rudimentary understanding of the true level of endemism in these northern archipelagos, these threats must be better quantified to protect species from them. The Pacific martens (M. caurina) inhabiting Haida Gwaii also represent a distinct species from other martens, indicating that the habitat of the islands may have allowed other distinct species to evolve.[6][9][12]


  1. ^ "NatureServe Explorer 2.0".
  2. ^ "NatureServe Explorer 2.0".
  3. ^ "NatureServe Explorer 2.0".
  4. ^ a b "Explore the Database". www.mammaldiversity.org. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  5. ^ Lachler, Jordan (2010). Dictionary of Alaskan Haida. Sealaska Heritage Institute. ISBN 978-0-9825786-5-0. OCLC 645501778.
  6. ^ a b c d Colella, Jocelyn P.; Frederick, Lindsey M.; Talbot, Sandra L.; Cook, Joseph A. (2021). "Extrinsically reinforced hybrid speciation within Holarctic ermine (Mustela spp.) produces an insular endemic". Diversity and Distributions. 27 (4): 747–762. doi:10.1111/ddi.13234. ISSN 1472-4642.
  7. ^ "Adorable Killer Ermines Found To Contain Three Distinct Species Of Fluffy Weasels". IFLScience. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  8. ^ "Scientists discover hybrid ermine species isolated in Haida Gwaii for 300,000 years". ca.news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  9. ^ a b c Denning, Angela; Petersburg, KFSK- (2021-03-30). "New ermine species found on Southeast Alaska island". Alaska Public Media. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  10. ^ Jung, Christina. "Scientists discover hybrid ermine species isolated in Haida Gwaii for 300,000 years". CBC.ca. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  11. ^ Kirk, David. "COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Ermine haidarum subspecies Mustela erminea haidarum in Canada" (PDF). www.sararegistry.gc.ca/. Environment Canada. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Distinct Species of Adorable Weasels Have Been Hiding in Plain Sight". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2021-07-12.