Belongs to: carnivores

Compare with: weasel

Stoat Mustela erminea


Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Fierce hunter with long body and bushy black-tipped tail

Habitat: all types from open seashore to bare mountain top

Widespread across the whole of Europe except the south; less common in Essex since the Myxomatosis epidemic cut down the rabbit population

Recognition

Brown back and yellowish underparts with a black tip to the bushy tail; body up to 30cm and tail about a third as much again; m. about 50% bigger than f.

Expert hunter; swims and climbs well; feeds mainly on small mammals, also small birds and, in hard times, worms, insects, frogs and berries

Move by jumping or hopping, leaving paired tracks; very inquisitive, so can be 'charmed' into the open by squeaking noises

Lifecycle

Mating occurs in late spring or summer and the young are not born until the following spring, with 5–12 in a litter

Young stay with the mother for several months until they have learned to hunt

Stoats living in cold regions change their coat to white in winter

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