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  • Writer's pictureWildlife Friendly Otley

Stoat - August 2021

Young stoats born in spring are now splitting up to hunt for themselves, making this notoriously difficult to spot mammal, a little easier to see right now. Stoats live alone and are territorial. Stoats are closely relate to weasels but are easy to distinguish the two as Stoats are larger, have an orangey-brown back, a creamy white throat and belly, and a bushy black-tipped tail. Stoats also have a very distinctive bounding gait, arching their back as they move; weasels do not bound, but run close to the ground.

Stoats love water, they can swim from a very young age and even dive underwater, appearing like little otters! Stoats have very good eyesight, good hearing and a strong sense of smell. They hunt day and night, can move quickly, and are even good at climbing treesl, chasing squirrels and raiding birds nests high in the canopy.

Stoats have a very wide range, whilst they are Stoats are absent from the Mediterranean countries and Southern Europe. They are still considered to be the most widespread mustelid, spreading across most of the northern hemisphere.

The stoat is a small but fierce predator, with a long, low-slung body that makes it particularly well suited to hunting small rodents and rabbits, which are between five to ten times their size! It can move up to 20 miles an hour, bounding over the ground. A key hunting tactic, is to chase a rabbit relentlessly to wear it down until it literally comes to a halt, the stoat then jump onto the back of its prey and bites into the neck, quickly killing the exhausted rabbit.

Almost any type of rural habitat may be inhabited by stoats, but they usually prefer an area with good cover, and on farmland they will generally keep close to walls, hedges or fences where possible. They mate in summer, but delay implantation of the fertilised egg until the spring of the following year. They have one litter of six to twelve kits a year, if the kits escape the unwanted attention of larger carnivores including badgers, foxes, grey herons, raptors, and occasionally domestic cats, they may live up to 7 years old. Sadly few survive their first winter, which is why stoat litters are so large.


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