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stoat Weasels

Identify It >   Mammal Section >   Weasels >

Scientific name:  Mustela nivalis

Size:  Head to base of tail around 20cm long. The tail is around 7cm long.  Weasels weigh around 100-170g

Distribution:  Found throughout mainland Britain, Isle of Wight, Anglesey and Skye, but absent from Ireland

Months seen:  All year round

Life Span:  Approx. 4 years

Food:  Mainly mice and voles, but will also take shrews, rats, small rabbits, birds and birds eggs.

Habitat:  Normally found on farmland, around farm buildings, park land, and waste ground.

Special features:  Weasels are the smallest native carnivore found in the UK.  They are similar in appearance to the stoat, although the stoat is generally a little larger and has a black tip to its tail.  Weasels also have a brown patch of fur around their throat.

Weasels have long slender bodies which are ideal for squeezing down mouse holes in search of prey.  They will often use these mouse holes to sleep in.

Like most carnivores Weasels are persecuted by man.  Some gamekeepers still regard them as vermin, and while it is true they will sometimes eat the eggs of game birds, they have the redeeming quality of keeping down the populations of mice and voles.

The Weasels breeding season is from March to September.  They have two litters each year, the first is usually born in May and may contain between three and eight young (known as kittens).  They are born in a nest which is usually made from grass and dry leaves in a hollow tree.

Although you will not find the weasel in Ireland, you can find stoats there. To confuse matters, stoats in Ireland are called weasels, because they are smaller than the stoats found on mainland Britain.

For hundreds of years Weasels were thought to possess magical powers!  In the Middle ages it was believed that Weasels could bring their dead young back to life.  It was also thought that they could hypnotize their prey by dancing in front of it.

Note: Stoats in Ireland are known locally as "Weasels".

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