Stoat - Mustela erminea

Description

Stoats have long, slender bodies and short legs. The coat is reddish to ginger in colour with white or cream underparts. The tail has a black tip, a feature that allows stoats to be distinguished from Weasels. Male Stoats are much larger than females. They often turn completely white in winter.

Similar Species

Weasels are a similar shape but much smaller, they also lack the black tip to the tail.

Photo ID?
Habitat

Inhabits a range of habitats including open moor, woodland, farmland and marsh.

When to see it

All year round - Stoats do not hibernate but may stay underground on cold days.

Life History

The Stoat is a carnivore and a very skilful predator - typically feeding on birds and small mammals, particularly rabbits and small rodents. They hunt in a zigzag pattern, making use of features such as walls and hedgerows to provide cover, probing crevices and holes, and often standing alert on the hind legs to look around. The Stoat dispatches its prey with a swift bite to the back of the neck. Males and females live in separate territories which they defend against individuals of the same sex. Mating occurs in early summer but births do not occur until the following spring, as development of the fertilised egg is delayed for 8 to 9 months. Between 6 and 12 blind, helpless kits are born per litter, after about 8 weeks the young Stoats begin to hunt alongside their mother. Females are able to mate before they are fully weaned at just 60 to 70 days of age, whereas males are unable to breed until they reach at least 2 years of age.

UK Status

Widespread and common throughout mainland Britain and Ireland.

VC55 Status

Fairly common in Leicestershire and Rutland.

Leicestershire & Rutland Map

UK Map