Stoat – Mustela erminea


A member of the weasel family (Mustelids), stoats are found throughout mainland Britain in a variety of habitats. Their appearance is similar to the weasel, although the stoat is considerably larger and has a distinctive black tip to its tail. In the north their winter coat is white. Stoats are very agile, they can climb well and may take young birds in the nest. They are also strong swimmers, capable of crossing large rivers.

Their primary food source is the rabbit, despite being many times its own weight, supplemented with small rodents and birds. The number of stoats in the wild is usually linked to the rabbit population but in recent years their numbers have declined.

Like the weasel, they are still heavily persecuted by gamekeepers protecting their game birds, but the numbers shot in recent years have also reduced, so it is more likely that they are being affected through eating poisoned rats or mice.

Origin: Native.
Size: Males 29 cm plus tail 11 cm. Females 26 cm plus tail 9 cm. About the size of a small ferret.
Description: Body and neck cylindrical and long, legs short. Brown on the back, creamy white on the under-parts and a black tail tip. In the north in winter their fur turns white (ermine).
Habitat: Where there is suitable food, they occur in a wide range of habitats from lowland forests to upland moors and even towns.
Young: Mating occurs May / June followed by a period of delayed implantation. Births occur April / May of the next year, females producing 1 litter of 5 – 12 young.
Nest: Nests of grass and leaves in hollow trunks, mole hills, walls, banks or thickets.
Diet: Purely carnivorous. Food includes voles, mice, rats, rabbits, hares and birds.
Population: Pre-breeding season estimated to be 462,000 adults.