The stoat is a native of Europe and North America and is a fairly common species.
Mating occurs in April to July with litters of ‘kits’ (of often mixed parentage as stoats are not monogamous) being born about 280 days after mating occurs.
Males play no part in raising the young, which are born deaf, blind and covered in a fine pink or white downy fur. From being born, until about 5 – 6 weeks of age the kits have very poor thermoregulation and will huddle together for warmth. The black tips on their tail occur at about 6 – 7 weeks of age.
Stoats can live for up to about 7 years in the wild but life expectancy is on average one and half years.
- Also known as ‘Ermine’ or short tailed weasel
- Tail always exceeds a third of the body length
- Elongated neck
- Cylindrical, long body
- Summer coat is sandy brown with a creamy white underside, winter coat is white with a black tip to the tail (to a lesser extent the further south you go)
- Bigger than, but similar in appreance to a weasel
Latin name: Mustela ermine
In the Garden
The stoat is a carnivore and its usual diet will consist of mice, voles and larger mammals such as rabbits, even though they are usually bigger than the stoat itself! Sometimes they will even prey on snakes and lizards! Ever the opportunist they will check out every nook and cranny on their ventures, in the hope of a meaty meal.
Perhaps the most mesmerizing thing you may witness a stoat do in your wildlife garden is its dance. They may perform an acrobatic display of dancing and jumping, turning and twisting in mid air like a ballet performer! However this ‘dance’ is not yet fully understood, some believe they do this to send their prey into a trance or so they the prey animal comes in for a curious closer look, then wham, whilst in their moment of curiosity the stoat will pounce! However is also believed although another reason this ‘performance’ is that of the skrjabingylus infection.
Stoats require places to hide in, such as rocks and crevices so make sure your provide these in your garden if you wish to attract stoats.
Did you know?
- The fur of a stoat in its winter coat is referred to as ‘ermine’
- In Irish mytholgily the stoats saliva was said to be able to poison a grown man
- Stoats were also supposed to hold the souls of infants who died before being baptized
- Stoats were introduced to new Zealand in the late 19th Century in order to control the rabbit population, however the breeding spiraled out of control and are now a threat to the native bird population