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stoat Stoats

Identify It >   Mammal Section >   Stoats >

Scientific name:  Mustela erminea

Size: Head to base of tails around 25cm.  The tail is approximately 10cm long.

Distribution: Found throughout the UK.

Months seen: All year round

Food: Rabbits, fish, game birds, rats, mice, voles and reptiles.

Habitat: Woodlands and farmland.

Special features: The stoats fur is usually reddish-brown coloured on its back, and creamy-white on the underside.  The tail has a distinctive black tip.

Stoats in the north change the colour of their fur during the winter months.  They turn completely white, except for the tip of the tail which remains black.  This is a camouflage when the ground is covered in snow.  The white fur is known as "ermine", and stoats in ermine used to be trapped and killed to make fur clothing.

Stoats can overpower prey up to six times larger than themselves.  They usually kill their prey with a bite to the back of the neck.

The main food of the stoat is rabbit, but it will take almost any meat including game birds and poultry.  For this reason the stoat has been persecuted for centuries by farmers and gamekeepers.

Stoats have a strong sense of smell and excellent hearing, but their eyesight is poor in comparison.

Note: Stoats in Ireland are slightly smaller in size and are known locally there as "Weasels".  Animals called Weasels in the rest of the UK are a completely separate species - Click here for more about Weasels

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